Companies that consider relocating in southern Utah should be required to guarantee good wages before local governments give economic incentives, an economist says.
Alan Hamlin, a Cedar City councilman and professor of economics at Southern Utah University, said some companies have received the incentives but haven't kept promises to hire a certain number of people or pay them good wages."What's to stop a company, once they get the incentives, from not hiring the number of people they promised to hire, or not paying them the wages they said they would pay? Nothing, that's what," he said.
Hamlin said St. George and Cedar City both have been "burned" by companies that got substantial incentives from local government. He said requiring contracts is the only way to guarantee wages and jobs, even if it causes some companies to locate elsewhere.
"Now that means we're going to lose some . . . but I think you have to question whether or not growth is good for growth's sake alone," Hamlin said.
There is no question that southern Utah is growing - and will continue to grow. It compares favorably to other areas of the country in the cost of doing business, the cost of living and quality of life, Hamlin said.
But he said there is a trend of businesses coming to the area, then perpetuating "economic slavery." Hamlin said 11 of the 12 industries he analyzed were paying less than $8 an hour.
"You cannot raise a family on eight dollars an hour," he said.
Meantime, he said, the cost of a home in Cedar City has jumped by nearly $5,000 in the past three months alone.