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Many top business stories of 2010 were positive

SHARE Many top business stories of 2010 were positive

SALT LAKE CITY — In October, Utah claimed the top spot in Forbes magazine's annual ranking of "The Best States for Business and Careers" — recognition that put the Beehive State in the national spotlight for 2010. Utah moved Virginia out of the top slot — where it had been for four years running.

In the article, Forbes noted that while states across the nation have suffered as a result of the national economic downturn, some states, like Utah, had weathered the downturn better than others.

A month later, an article appearing in the November issue of Newsweek cited Salt Lake City among the "Top 10 Places in America Poised for Recovery." While all the business and economic news wasn't always good, 2010 was a year that offered a fair amount of positives and some significant drawbacks as well.

On the upside, after two years of anticipation, Davis County announced the signing of the first tenant for a 550-acre research park on Hill Air Force Base's west side — Northrop Grumman.

It signified the beginning of Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park, which will be northern Utah's largest economic development project upon completion.

The research park is also the largest of its kind within the U.S. Defense Department and could bring as many as 15,000 high-paying jobs to Davis and Weber counties.

Another major announcement came in March as Goldman Sachs, a global investment firm, confirmed it would relocate its regional office from the University of Utah's Research Park to the new 222 Main office building, bringing all 720 employees to the new downtown location. The banking and investment firm will occupy seven floors in the newly completed office tower.

The company expects to have about 1,150 employees in its new space by the end of next year.

Goldman opened its Utah operations in August 2000 with a regional office in Salt Lake City, in addition to a local branch of Goldman Sachs Bank USA.

Meanwhile, one of the state's top technology firms announced it would increase its presence in Utah County over the next 12 months. Online retailer Overstock.com announced earlier this month that the company will open a software development center in Provo early next year.

The new facility will add 150 new jobs to the 1,500 the company already employs in the Beehive State. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, the company was founded in 1999 and is a leading online merchandise retailer.

Another Utah company also announced plans to increase local operations.

Taylorsville-based Nelson Laboratories Inc. said in January it would add 75 to 100 new jobs as the company expanded into a new $13 million, 50,000-square-foot building adjacent to its other facility located at 6280 S. Redwood Road.

The company is a contract laboratory with clients in the medical device, pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical, dietary supplement and tissue industries. It opened in 1985 in Research Park near the University of Utah with five employees before eventually moving to Taylorsville in 1994. Today, Nelson Labs employs more than 320 scientists and staff.

In October, food manufacturer Litehouse Inc. announced plans to build a new facility in Hurricane — an expected investment of more than $10 million that will add 162 new full-time jobs in the rural southern Utah community.

The company began as a restaurant facility more than 50 years ago in the resort town of Hope, Idaho — gaining notoriety for its blue cheese dressing, which eventually lead to expansion into the retail market. Today, Litehouse is employee-owned with sales in excess of $120 million and more than 500 employees.

The products produced in the new Utah plant will be a mix of existing lines and products from Green Garden Foods, a Kent, Wash., company acquired by Litehouse earlier this year.

In December, Czarnowski Display Service Inc. said it would invest more than $6.5 million in the development of a new production and distribution facility in St. George. When completed, the operation will employ 50 new full-time staff and will also periodically hire 25-40 temporary employees to meet seasonal demand.

The second phase of the state's biggest wind-energy electricity-generation facility began commercial operation last month.

Located in Millard and Beaver counties, the first phase of the Milford Wind Corridor project featured 97 wind turbines and is expected to generate 203.5 megawatts of electricity, making it the largest renewable-energy facility in Utah.

Construction of the Milford project began in 2008. The first phase generated nearly $86 million in direct and indirect spending in Utah and the creation of 250 development and construction jobs.

The second phase got underway in November, with officials celebrating an expansion that will add 68 wind turbine generators. Eventually, the $400 million project will include 159 turbines across 40 square miles of public and private land.

Adding to the growth list was Newell Window Furnishings, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. that made the decision in October to expand and build a new facility in Ogden. As a result, all 415 existing jobs were retained and 50 new full-time positions will be created in the larger new facility.

The parent company markets well-known brands including Rubbermaid, Sharpie, Graco, Levolor and Kirsch.

Under the category of "not so good news," Alliant Techsystems — the Minnesota-based defense contractor that employs nearly 4,000 people in Utah — announced layoffs of 426 workers in October.

A spokesman for the company said the cuts resulted from the loss of federal funding for the Ares I rocket, the expiring space shuttle and the Air Force Minuteman III programs.

Last year, ATK announced it would cut 800 jobs by spring 2010, following 550 layoffs in October 2009. Ironically, the company also announced at the time that it would add 760 jobs over the next several years.

The financial difficulties facing the mainstream print media hit close to home this year as the Deseret News announced a massive reorganization in September. The publication cut 57 full-time and 28 part-time staff positions — 43 percent of the entire workforce.

The paper announced plans to consolidate newsgathering operations with KSL-TV and radio in addition to bolstering its online news presence.

Launched in 1850, the Deseret News is the oldest continuously operating business in Utah. It is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corp., which is a for-profit business arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Adding to the state's employment contraction, a Utah County firm announced in October that it would outsource the publishing segment of its business, costing about 80 workers their jobs.

Orem-based Ziplocal signed an agreement to move its print publishing responsibilities to Pennsylvania.

The company provides print telephone directories for businesses and communities in 300 cities across 33 states nationwide, as well as digital resources through mobile devices and the Internet.

While the economy had its share of high and lows, there was also a significant milestone announced in 2010, with the Salt Lake Chamber naming Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish as the first individual female recipient of the Giant in Our City Award. She was the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah and the first woman to lead a major religious denomination in the state.

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com