The new pioneers: businesses, workers drawn to Utah outdoors

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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SALT LAKE CITY – It has been five months since Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled Utah’s “Outdoor Recreation Vision.” For the team working to bring new business to the state, the strategy seems to be paying off. The Economic Development Corp. of Utah lists national parks, forests and monuments, and more than a dozen ski areas among the recruiting tools for Utah companies that want their workers to have a life as well as a job.

According to Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Jeff Edwards, businesses are lining up to give Utah a closer look.

“There’s all kinds of manufacturing projects at our office,” he said. “We’ve got a strong performance in the IT space right now, with new software development in particular, and people who are making winter sports products or bicycles, skis, snow boards, climbing equipment.”

Late last year, a Headwaters Economics study said that in non-urban counties in the West, per-capita income is higher depending on how much protected public land is in the county. Part of the increase it reported is from higher-paying service industries, such as health care and real estate, expanding into rural markets.

Edwards said Utah’s work ethic often wins out in what has become a tough competition between western states to attract new and growing businesses. Currently, there are a number of chief competitors, he said: “Outdoor places like Denver, for example, or a place like Portland that has a lot of nearby recreation. Same with Seattle and some of the western cities that have some of those same kinds of quality of life going for them that Salt Lake City and the rest of Utah do.”

Edwards points to bringing software giant Adobe to the Lehi area as just one of the state’s recent successes.

“In talking to them, their culture is very much about quality of life. So the Utah equation really fit well for them, as they were thinking about not only growing out here with the Utah workforce, but also about moving people from other parts of the world,” he explained.

The migration trend is not just corporate. Headwaters Economics said entrepreneurs and people who can work remotely also are choosing to relocate closer to outdoor amenities. Outdoor recreation is now a $12 billion annual business in Utah, according to the Outdoor Industry Assn.

The Headwaters Economics report (Nov. 2012) is at headwaterseconomics.org. Outdoor Industry Assn. figures are available at www.outdoorindustry.org.