Expert Opinion - Brent Drew and Danny Stewart, Port 15 Cedar City
To get insight on how places in southern Utah, such as Cedar City, are prime locations for manufacturing and distribution, we sat down with Brent Drew, VP of Business Development for Port 15 Utah, and Danny Stewart, Economic Development Director of Cedar City. They explained how Utah has positioned itself as a true crossroads of the west.
Port 15 Utah is located in Cedar City, Utah and functions as a fully developed rail-served industrial park with high capacity industrial utilities. This positioning allows companies to process shipments quickly and efficiently through the west and beyond and even provide one-day trucking to places like California. “Trucking Companies can meet all of their deadlines. They can bring raw materials in by rail, manufacture here in Cedar City, drive their product into California for the early market, and be right back the next day,” Brent Drew explains about the benefits of Port 15 Utah’s location.
“All of the industrial areas within Port 15 Utah allow shipments to be on I-15 within minutes,” Danny Stewart adds. This strategic placement cuts down on traffic time, further boosting efficiency. Other trucking companies coming from Arizona have to take several different roads rather than a direct route into California; Utah’s route follows a direct path via I-15 for quick delivery. “People love driving here because of the short distances that they have to travel,” Drew goes on to say, “They have no trouble getting their product out of our area and into theirs quickly.”
For this reason, it’s easy to find truck drivers here in Utah willing to take the job. Cedar City is also home to a truck driving school making it simple for companies to hire trained available labor. Other educational facilities in Cedar City have designed specific engineering and manufacturing programs to serve the needs of incoming companies. “The engineering program at Southern Utah University is designed to help out manufacturing,” says Drew “It’s specifically designed for what local companies say they need.” Southern Utah University is a great resource for companies looking for trained and educated hires, and is more able than larger universities to tailor programs specific to the needs of the area. “They just put together the Aerospace Pathways program for needs that we have here for our aerospace manufacturers,” Stewart adds.
Cedar City is also home to the Southwest Applied Technology College (SWATC), which has a program that educates in all aspects of manufacturing. “The ATC is especially nimble,” Stewart offers. The SWATC offers low-cost educational programs and trades including courses in industrial maintenance and automation, structural steel and pipe welding, electrical training and many others.
Companies coming to do business in Utah have been impressed with the obtainability of an educated workforce here in Utah. “Because of the higher education level here they never need to go through as many people as they would in other areas,” Drew states. GAF Materials Corporation, who recently expanded to Cedar City, Utah, was originally concerned that they wouldn’t be able to find enough individuals with the right qualifications. However, they were thrilled to find the reverse situation. “Their expansion created just 40 jobs, but they were highly technical jobs,” Drew relays, “They had over 1,200 applications and stated that they would have been able to hire a great number of the applicants.” They also boast excellent retention rates. “Of those first 40 applicants, more than three quarters are still with the company nearly a decade later,” explains Stewart.
Several companies that have facilities in Cedar City are undergoing their second or third expansion. “Many qualified people out there are looking for opportunities to come back to Utah,” Stewart explains. Companies have also been delighted with the ability of the labor force here to resolve problems, work efficiently and create new opportunities. “It’s a quality work force that wants to work,” Drew reports, “These are people who want to work and know what they’re working for.” Matters such as drug-screening and absenteeism are non-issues in Cedar City and throughout Utah. “It’s the culture that you get up and go to, you don’t have excuses and you’re loyal to your company,” Stewart concludes.
“We love manufacturing here,” Drew says enthusiastically. The industry here in Utah is well equipped for a variety of manufacturing projects including, plastics, injection molding, sheet metal, aircraft parts, rockets and drones. Cedar City also has utility-scale solar farm plants to take advantage of over 250 sunny days a year.
Utah’s location is prime when it comes to shipping in railway and trucking routes. The manufacturing industry is thriving and the work force is something to be envied. In conclusion, Utah is not something to be underestimated. The distinctive “quality over quantity” will continue to bolster Utah’s reputation as it continues to be the place to do business.