Weber County Leaders Unveil Long-Awaited Plan, Aiming to Energize the Economy
OGDEN — After more than two years of collecting data, analyzing Weber County’s business sector, forging coalitions with state and regional leaders and more, officials here have unveiled a plan meant to energize the local economy.
The aim is to lure in new companies, draw high-paying jobs, boost the median income and bolster Weber County and Northern Utah as an economic force.
“It’s really a huge day for us and we’re super excited,” Weber County Commissioner James Ebert, flanked by other county leaders, said Tuesday at Weber State University in announcing the plan.
The mechanisms to bring about the change will be branding the area, getting the word out about the assets here, zeroing in on the industries that fit best with the zone and getting leaders from Davis County on board with the vision. It’s ambitious — the effort aims to replicate the sort of explosive growth and development that has occurred in Utah County — but Ebert said the groundwork has been laid.
“We have done a tremendous amount of work to really create this foundation to move your economic development forward,” said Ebert, one of the key driving forces in the county-led effort, which dates back at least to 2015.
Local businesses have been polled, creating a database of important economic information, and relationships are being forged with regional and state elected officials, among other things.
Even so, some of the “action items” identified in the plan to help achieve the goals are general. And the initiative has prompted raised eyebrows at times from some stemming from the outside consultants and other experts brought in since then to assist.
Whatever the case, Tuesday’s unveiling at WSU’s Wattis Business Building brimmed with enthusiasm and go-go boosterism, and Ebert said more specific “tactics” to reach the goals will soon be revealed.
Creation of a more formal relationship with Davis County leaders in the effort is also in the works.
Meantime, county staffers are spearheading the initiative, aided by the nonprofit Economic Development Corp. of Utah and the Dicio Group, which helps the county with marketing and promotion.
“This is kind of a monumental day,” said Chuck Leonhardt, president of the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce.
The county and zone have great potential to grow and draw business, Roy Mayor Bob Dandoy said, “if it’s marketed well.”
MEETING ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
The goals spelled out in the initiative, the 2018 Weber County Strategic Economic Development plan, are boosting the median income here, creating more jobs, leveraging existing assets to meet “economic potential” and ensuring a “dynamic economy.” More specifically, it calls for bolstering the median household income in Weber County from $63,158 to the state figure, $65,977, and taking steps to make sure that the 12,000 new posts expected to come to the county in the next five years are “high-quality jobs.”
To do so, the plan proposes targeted economic development efforts in sectors that are strong in the zone — advanced manufacturing, aerospace and life sciences. It also calls for enhancing quality-of-life offerings here to attract the sort of population that employers want, keeping better inventory of real estate offerings here for businesses mulling expansion and improved roads and infrastructure.
County leaders have already taken steps to enhance cultural offerings here to augment the quality of life. They’ve also reached out to existing businesses to get their gauge of the economic environment here. Indeed, the results of polling of representatives from 1,200 businesses in the county were key in crafting the plan.
“It will take time, but the return will be great,” said Utah Sen. Ann Millner, one of the speakers Tuesday.
By Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner
Photo: Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner