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Leavitt unveils online directory for businesses

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Help in finding a bobsled-themed gift basket or veterinary services for a pet macaw — and finding it in Utah — is now a mouse-click away.

Gov. Mike Leavitt on Wednesday unveiled an online directory that will allow Internet users to search for products and services offered by Utah businesses. More than 120,000 businesses, nonprofit organizations and state agencies are listed at www.finditinutah.com.

The site will promote Utah businesses and make it easier for consumers to find what they need in-state by using the Internet, Leavitt said.

"It (the Internet) is such an amazing tool; however, sometimes it's just too big," he said. "Maybe you're looking for a pair of tires or looking for a vet to take care of your bird, and on the Internet the only bird vet you find is in California. Well, that's not going to do you a lot of good."

The site is a joint project of the state Department of Community and Economic Development and private partners Novell, National Information Consortium and Digital Signature Trust.

Communities, organizations and associations can customize their own list based on the state directory. Provo already has, through the city at www.finditinprovo.com and the Provo Chamber of Commerce at www.thechamber.org.

Internet users can enter keywords, all or parts of business names, industry types or other information as a way to narrow their search for an individual company.

"Now, even hard-to-find resources are easy to find," said Brent McCormick, strategic integration manager in systems engineering at Novell.

Businesses will get their name, phone number and address listed on the site. If they choose, they can have up to a six-page Web site that can include graphics or photos, links to their own Web site, contact information, a map, a description of the company, coupons or promotional offers, job openings and frequently asked questions. Businesses will be able to alter their content, even to the point of stopping a promotion if it discovers it has become too popular.

The site is designed to provide free Internet presence for Utah businesses.

"Companies in Utah need to have an Internet strategy, and this is a major step forward to assure that every one of our businesses has the ability to make this very important transition," Leavitt said.

Several businesspeople at a news conference hailed the online directory.

Ron Fakler, manager of commercial tire sales and service at Fakler Tires in Provo, said the Internet is "so bewildering" for small businesses, and many cannot afford to have people set up Web sites in-house.

Mark Neves, owner of All Wrapped Up in Riverwoods, described the Provo pilot site as "a great little venture for us." The site should help lead people from outside Utah to a place where they can find a unique, Olympics-related gift from inside the state.

"We're not convinced that everyone wants to be able to order on the Internet, but to be able to visualize or see catalogs to help them choose what they'd like," he said.

Robert Fuehr, executive director of the state Division of Business and Economic Development, noted that the Web site is the latest in the evolution of a state business directory. The first step was a printed directory that listed 9,000 companies with 50 or more workers. Three years ago, the department started producing a CD-ROM listing 20,000 companies with at least 25 employees.

Fuehr lauded the Web site as a great example of public/private cooperation, and Provo Mayor Lewis Billings described it as "a very creative approach to moving forward in the future."

"This is really," Leavitt said, "a huge step forward in terms of being able to create an economic community on the Internet."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com