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Bust.Slow recovery.

It's been that kind of decade for Utah's economy.

Businesses ranging from manufacturing giants to the corner grocery store have felt the ebb and tide of doing business in Utah. The '80s were anything but stable.

Just ask the estimated 12,000 people who lost high-paying union jobs when Geneva Steel and Kennecott Copper Corp. closed shop in the mid-80s.

Geneva and Kennecott later reopened and are doing well financially, due in part to substantially leaner contract settlements with the unions. Both have considerably fewer employees and are running smaller shops.

Oil and gas, once considered the economic backbone of the West, was hard hit in the latter years of the decade. As the demand for domestic oil dwindled, so did the price per barrel. Oil wells on the Uintah Basin were capped and workers were sent packing.

Unemployment in Utah peaked at nearly 11 percent in 1982, a phenomenon that mirrored the jobless rate nationwide.

As if things weren't bad enough, gasoline prices shot through the roof in the early '80s. Motorists paid as much as $1.30 a gallon.

Meanwhile, the prime lending rate hit 20 percent in 1982, which all but halted home and business construction.

Some 40,000 more people left the state than moved in during the decade. About 14,000 left in 1987 alone.

Utah's real-estate market fell victim to the joblessness and out-migration. Hundreds of dislocated workers placed their houses on the market. The problem was, most of the decade was not a seller's market.

And speaking of markets, how about that stock market? Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, will live in infamy. On that day, stocks lost 21 percent of their value when the market fell 508 points below the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Events in the U.S. and local financial markets convinced some Utahns to steer clear of stock investments. Utahns lost money in penny stock and other investment schemes and by the end of the decade Utah was called the "white-collar crime capital" of the nation.

Utah certainly had its share of disappointments during the decade, among them Adnan Khashoggi's failed $400 million Triad America.

The Saudi billionaire's plans to redevelop 26 acres on Salt Lake City's west side went belly up in 1987, six years after he launched the project. Creditors have yet to receive their money from Khashoggi, but trustees have recovered at least $32 million.

Oddly, Khashoggi helped develop the Salt Lake International Center, which became an anchor for new business in Utah. Research Park served a similar purpose, luring new high-tech industries to Utah.

Utah has emerged as one of the country's leading telecommunications centers. Eastern and Delta airlines, J.C. Penney, American Express, Fidelity Investments and Sears have established telephone-based service operations in the Salt Lake area.

Other new businesses creating new jobs in Utah were McDonnell Douglas, Southland Corp., and National Semiconducter Corp.

And Jon Huntsman, president of Huntsman Chemical Corp. has become one of the nation's leading businessmen. The Utahn's chemical empire has had annual revenues of $1 billion in recent years.

Another success story was Delta Air Lines' merger with Western Airlines in 1987. The marriage resulted in Delta becoming the fourth largest airline in the country and a hub operation was established at Salt Lake International Airport.

Utah County nurtured its own "Silicon Valley" during the decade, creating new jobs to soften the blow of Geneva's and Kennecott's temporary closures.

Headlining the cast were WordPerfect, a home-grown word-processing software manufacturer; Novell, a Provo-based computer networking company; and Wicat Systems Inc., which produces computer-based training products.

Despite the economic development, the '80s were not kind to the state's financial institutions.

Eleven Utah banks failed during the decade, the first in 50 years.

American, MountainWest, Deseret Federal, and Sandia Federal savings and loans were among 25 S&Ls nationwide placed in conservatorship as part of the $50 billion bailout plan approved by Congress in August.

But the banking industry had a happy ending during the decade. Depositors in 1988 settled a lawsuit filed against the state to recover money lost in the collapse of Utah's privately insured thrift and loan industry. The Legislature agreed to return $103 million to the holders of accounts at five thrifts and loans, which were declared insolvent in 1986.

Along the way, a little whimsy entered the Utah business scene. In 1982, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery Inc. moved its corporate headquarters to Park City. It now has more than 700 locations around the world.

For the ski elite, Evolution Skis opened its doors in Utah, producing skis that not only are works of art but rival the performance of European makes. Another Utah-made product that made it big in the '80s was Chums. The brightly colored cotton tubes produced in Hurricane are designed to keep one's eyeglasses on one's face.

The motion picture industry discovered Utah in the 1980s, a business that has doubled dollarwise in the last five years. Filmmaking pumped a record $33 million into state's economy in the 1988-89 fiscal year.

Whew! What a decade. One can only imagine what the '90s will bring.



Major events in the 1980s in Utah's business community

1980 - Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus approved construction of 3,000-megawatt Intermountain Power Project near Delta.

1981 - Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi announced plans to develop the $400 million Triad Center on 26 acres of land on Salt Lake City's west side. Copper, gold, silver and coal prices plummeted. Utah coped with growth that resulted from energy development.

1982 - The national recession hit home. Unemployment hit record highs at nearly 11 percent. Layoffs in mining, manufacturing and construction were to blame.

1983 - Gov. Scott Matheson asked for $100 million tax increase to keep education spending flowing.

1984 - More than 1,800 Kennecott Copper employees were laid off, a precursor to the massive job losses in the coming year.

1985 - Kennecott Copper closed mining operation. Geneva Steel phased out 3,000 jobs.

1986 - Oil prices declined. The State of Utah took over five failing thrifts and loans; Geneva Steel was purchased by Basic Manufacturing and Technologies Inc.

1987 - Delta and Western Airlines merged to become the fourth-largest airline in the world. Kennecott reopened, but with fewer workers. Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi bankrupted Triad America.

1988 - Depositors in Utah thrifts and loans reached agreement with the state to recover money lost in the collapse of five privately insured thrifts.

1989 - Utah Power & Light merged with Pacificorp.


Top 5 Utah Business Stories

1. Kennecott Copper and Geneva Steel shut their doors and later reopen.

2. The oil boom really turns out to be a bust.

3. National recession hits home.

4. Thrift crisis.

5. (tie) Khashoggi/Triad.

(tie) Utah Power & Light merges with Pacific Corp.