At the same time Utah economic development officials are trying to attract business to the state, other states are trying to boost their economies by wooing Utah companies to relocate.
That's why Utahns must be on the alert to make it advantageous to remain in the state, according to Rick Thrasher, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Economic Development Corp., a public and private partnership that has a goal of creating 44,000 new jobs between now and 1994.Calling anyone who attempts to lure Utah business to another state a "rascal", Thrasher said the economic development game is intensely competitive and states have offered outrageous incentives to attract new business.
Thrasher was one of several who spoke on economic development at the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Utah session Friday.
Thrasher cited a situation involving a west-side Salt Lake business that was thinking about moving to Phoenix, Ariz., because of the high power costs associated with the business. Thrasher said one of his employees discovered the company had three separate electric meters and wasn't getting a certain rate because of the separate meters.
After consulting with Utah Power & Light Co.. Thrasher said two meters were removed and the company was given a bulk power rate, thus removing any advantage of moving to Arizona and saving the 45 jobs.
Thrasher said some people may look at those 45 jobs and say "so what?" To those people who hold those jobs the decision to remain in Utah was very important and it also was important for the Utah economy. He promised to fight for every job.
Not losing companies to other states is only part of the economic development picture, Thrasher said. One UEDC employee does nothing else but serve as a liasion between business and regulatory agencies to solve problems.
Thrasher said economic development in Utah also hinges on increasing exports and noted that Utah sells more products to Canada than any other state. "We are living in a global economy and Utah businesses need to learn how to sell their products and services to other countries," he said.
Selling Utah products to the federal, state and local governments boosts the state's economy, and that should be increased. The federal government purchases $300 billion worth of items annually, and if Utah could garner one-tenth of 1 percent of that figure it would mean an additional 1,000 jobs, Thrasher said.
In response to a question about incentives offered to attract new business, Thrasher said some states have offered huge sums of money, abatement of property taxes, abatement of sales taxes on equipment, money for training, free land and help with utilities.
Thrasher said the interest in the large incentives is waning, but believes Utah must provide limited incentives such as roads and water and sewer systems. One of the biggest incentives, he said, is to maintain a good education system.