OGDEN — Economic development doesn’t happen by itself.
And it doesn’t come without cost.
Mindful of that, Weber County leaders propose creation of a new private, nonprofit group that would be tasked with pursuing business growth here and in Davis County — tentatively called the Economic Development Corp. of Northern Utah, or EDCNU. The two-county body, unique in Utah, would operate under the auspices of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, also a private, nonprofit, aided by $775,000 set aside by state lawmakers during the 2018 legislative session to help with its creation.
Weber County commissioners discussed the notion Tuesday at their weekly meeting with Theresa Foxley, president of EDCUtah, voicing support for pursuing creation of the two-county body. It’s the next step in county efforts, dating to late 2016, to craft a new economic development strategy to create higher-paying jobs and lure more businesses to Northern Utah.
“We know that we’re headed in the right direction. We know this is the right thing to do,” Weber County Commissioner Jim Harvey said.
Weber County leaders unveiled a plan last week aimed at energizing the economy here, and creation of the two-county economic development organization — possibly by July — would be the next step in the efforts. “This for us is a completely different direction,” Commissioner James Ebert said.
Davis County Commissioner Jim Smith attended Tuesday’s meeting and said afterward that officials in the neighboring county are on board with the concept. But they need to more formally discuss the idea among themselves, with EDCUtah officials and with Weber County leaders.
“We are generally in support of joint efforts for economic development in our region,” Smith said. “The key will be in the details of how that is structured.”
Foxley, who’s been coordinating efforts with Weber County officials, said teaming with Davis County would give boosters more options when pursuing business prospects.
The bigger, more diversified area would potentially draw interest “from all different types of businesses,” she said, and allow for a broader array of promotional strategies. What’s more, political boundaries — county lines and city limits, for instance — are typically of minimal concern for businesses.
Per the two-county effort, Foxley recommended creation of a branding strategy or local identity, akin to the Silicon Slopes brand around Salt Lake City and Provo. The local brand, she said, could potentially tie into the military, industrial and entrepreneurial heritage here.
“It’s got to be organic. It’s got to be driven by you. It’s got to be authentic,” Foxley said. She called the Economic Development Corp. of Northern Utah moniker a “placeholder” name, temporary until local officials decide on something.
Weber County commissioners have pushed the economic development initiative, with the help of EDCUtah and private consultants like PGCC Strategies of Bountiful and the Dicio Group of Salt Lake City. The county funds spent have prompted questions from some.
The one-time $775,000 allocation earmarked for the northern Utah initiative would be funneled through the Governor’s Office on Economic Development, per the legislation creating the funds, House Bill 2.
But over the long haul, the EDCUtah proposal calls for funding from Weber and Davis counties and the private sector. The body would be overseen by a board with some public officials, but majority representation from the private sector.
By: Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner
Photo: Tim Vandenack, Standard Examiner