Utah’s Top Economic Development Themes of 2021

December 31, 2021

While we’re big fans of “top ten” lists at this time of year, we’re taking a more thematic approach when it comes to 2021 in review. Here are four dominant themes, with multiple stories supporting those themes. Here we go!

Theme one - The pandemic continues to affect the mix of companies looking to expand in Utah.

The project pipeline of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah) is at a record high. Manufacturing and distribution (aka “industrial project”) companies are going gangbusters, as these companies seek to de-risk their shop floors, supply chains, and logistics. More than half of EDCUtah’s project pipeline is now in this category, up from a third of the pipeline two years ago. Supporting stories include, but are not limited to, a significant number of project wins such as:

-       Orgill

-       Nucor Corp.

-       Saraya USA

-       Plastic Ingenuity

-       Owens Corning

-       Vobev

-       Leitner-Poma

A number of these wins were off of the Wasatch Front, an encouraging trend for the entire state.

All of EDCUtah’s business development (BD) team is shouldering the increased load and, given the complexities of Industrial projects, our BD managers have gotten smarter on the topics of industrial water, power, other site utilities, and construction issues over the course of the year. Getting our team up to speed on these complexities has only taken place because of the generosity of our EDCUtah investors, who are subject matter experts willing to share their knowledge.


Theme two – The BioHive is buzzing.

Our friends at BioUtah launched the BioHive, a branding initiative that celebrates Utah’s fast-growing life sciences industry. EDCUtah is contributing to the buzz with a pipeline of life sciences projects, and several significant project wins, including Denali Therapeutics, Nusano Inc., Perfect Day, and Cytiva.


Theme three – “Speed to Market is the new incentive.”

Nationwide, there is a scarcity of shovel-ready or move-in-ready industrial properties. Utah is experiencing this same shortage. Combine this trend with increased interest from industrial projects, and you can see why one consultant has said, “Speed to market is the new incentive.”

To meet this need, EDCUtah has launched a program to build the inventory of project-ready properties. Across the state, municipalities and landowners are following a disciplined process to gather site information, including detailed engineering studies. The Site Ready Utah program is expanding the number of industrial sites of 50 acres or more across the state that have standardized information available. It builds upon the previously launched Mega Sites program (400+ acres). Certification under the Site Ready Utah program indicates to an interested company that the evaluation, permitting, and construction processes at a given site will be streamlined should the company choose that site. In other words, speed to market.

What happens when a municipality or land owner develops “product” in a disciplined fashion? Over the last decade, Eagle Mountain has made strategic efforts and investments to develop real estate that’s ready for corporate expansion. These efforts are paying off, with the announcement by Facebook that the Eagle Mountain data center (which began operations in 2021) would expand in future years by 900,000 square feet and two new buildings.

Northern Utah is getting into the act, with the launch of an industrial site on 6,000 acres in west Weber County. NUEA’s Chris Roybal says the site “will become the next, best industrial park in the state of Utah…..Northern Utah has the substantial, well-equipped labor force needed to support the 25,000 new jobs that this park will bring over the next 20 years.”


Theme four – DEI is a top-of-mind concern for expanding companies.

The pandemic exposed disparities when it comes to our nation’s diverse communities. Across all industries, there is a rising level of interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Increasingly, companies care about creating a sense of belonging for all of their employees and are adding ESG criteria to their location decisions. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are a part of this overall trend.

To address these concerns, EDCUtah has taken some big steps in 2021.

In response to the aspirational goals framed in January 2021’s Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, EDCUtah formed the Center for Economic Opportunity & Belonging (CEOB). In May 2021, EDCUtah announced that Ze Min Xiao would direct the center. Several major foundations, including the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, have provided support for CEOB.

CEOB anchors EDCUtah’s approach to better communicate Utah’s changing demographics to the audience of out-of-state companies and site selectors. At the same time, CEOB helps us make the case to out-of-state talent from diverse backgrounds that Utah is a welcoming place. To this end, EDCUtah has published more than 20 interviews with Utah companies and community resources including:

-       Goldman Sachs

-       Adobe

-       Equality Utah

-       Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs

With the support of Comcast (an EDCUtah investor), CEOB also launched stereotype-busting video assets for Human Resource and corporate recruiters to use when engaging with out-of-state diverse talent, and for EDCUtah to use with site selectors and corporate executives of companies considering Utah for an expansion project. Published in November 2021, these “We Are Utah” videos are found on EDCUtah’s YouTube channel, and are available free of charge for companies to use in their recruiting efforts. You can also see them at Salt Lake International Airport! These videos are early components of a larger, multi-year “Belong In Utah” campaign that CEOB is launching in 2022.


2021 has been a challenging year on many fronts, but EDCUtah has continued to adapt and innovate to fulfill our mission to ensure a quality job for every aspiring Utahn. Bring on 2022!