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Zions Bank to build Kanab service center

Crisis management took on new meaning for corporations in the days following Sept. 11, 2001.

In fact, the way a company responds to a crisis within the first 10 days can determine whether its net worth drops 22 percent, according to crisis management experts.

So it came as no surprise Friday when Salt Lake-based Zions Bank announced it would create a second customer service center in Kanab, which lies 75 miles east of St. George on the Arizona border.

Designed to handle operations if the bank's main facility in West Valley City were knocked out, the Kanab center will add 40 new jobs this year, with a total of 70 jobs expected within three years.

"If something were to happen to the (West Valley) site, whether there be an earthquake here, a fire, or a disaster that would shut it down, we needed to have a place where we could bring it back up quickly. And we didn't want to have that site along the Wasatch Front," said Scott Anderson, Zions president and chief executive officer.

Anderson said a number of sites across the Western United States were considered for the new center, but Kanab took the honors, largely because of Gov. Mike Leavitt's "Smart Site" initiative, which offers infrastructure and high-tech improvements to rural communities in a campaign to draw new jobs.

"From an economic point of view it made sense," said Anderson, who credited the community's infrastructure and trained workers to the program. "The governor has put together all of the facets that make it economically feasible to do."

Kanab, which has a population of about 3,800, saw its main industries of timber and mining decimated in the mid-1990s.

Jim Matson, economic director for Kane County, said the recovery has been painfully slow, with tourism and travel jobs not enough to fill the void of what was lost.

Yet the smart site program has offered new hope.

Matson said the service center jobs will pay between $9 and $10 an hour, significantly more than the average county wage of $7.50.

"It will help raise the average wage countywide," said Matson, noting that more than 120 people have expressed interest in the first 30 jobs.

Leavitt praised Zion's efforts, saying it was his intention to make sure economic prosperity was spread statewide.

"The economic resettlement of rural Utah means that we are not just creating jobs, we are creating new kinds of jobs," he said. "This will bring to over 700 the number of jobs in rural Utah that have been developed in the last 20 months."