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UTAH REMAINS IN RUNNING FOR COMPUTER PLANT

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Don't count out the Salt Lake area in the hunt for computermaker Packard Bell's manufacturing plant and headquarters, a state economic development officials said Wednesday.

Packard Bell is focusing its search for a new home among the Salt Lake area, Sacramento and Portland, Ore.California sweetened its deal earlier this week by proposing a $5 million tax break intended to persuade Packard Bell to move its computer plant from Southern California to Sacramento. The proposal has been approved by a California Assembly committee.

"California can, by sheer incentives, beat us out any day. But if I had the Packard Bell people sitting her with me now, I'd ask them, `Do you really want to deal with the California bureaucracy?' Most of the people we get in Utah are tired of dealing with California, period," said Russ Behrmann, spokesman for the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development.

Packard Bell officials decided late last year to look for sites to consolidate its manufacturing space and corporate headquarters.

Then in January, its headquarters were badly damaged in an earthquake, and the company moved to a new site in Westlake Village, Calif., while continuing to entertain offers from other states.

Since then, Packard Bell relocated its technical support center to Magna from Chatsworth, Calif. Officials said the center would ultimately employ 600 Utahns.

The California bill would allow the firm to get tax credits by hiring disadvantaged workers from anywhere in Sacramento County. The bill moves to the Ways and Means Committee.

"We are in discussions with the city of Sacramento, and we are in the process of putting together a letter of understanding, and if the open issues are resolved, and I believe they can be resolved, then we will commit to the Sacramento location," Packard Bell vice chairman Jeff Scheinrock said.