Five Questions for Chris Roybal
Chris Roybal will lead a new regional economic development body created to spur growth in Northern Utah, specifically in Weber and Davis counties. His is a name familiar to site selectors. From 1993 to 2004, he was president and chief executive officer of EDCUtah, and from 2005 to 2007, he served as senior advisor for economic development to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He was also COO of Northwest Research Corporation, a logistics business.
Officials from the two counties and EDCUtah, which is helping to launch and support the new organization, announced in June that Chris will serve as executive director of the new body, which has yet to be named.
County commissioners in Weber and Davis counties approved a three-year agreement creating the new two-county economic development body, tasked with drawing in new businesses and encouraging existing ones to expand. The leaders had been working on the plans since 2017 and EDCUtah was picked to help guide the process.
Here are some of Chris’ thoughts on the new initiative:
What’s the value proposition for companies looking to expand in the Northern Utah region?
I’ve been involved in recruiting hundreds of companies to the state of Utah, helping hundreds more with expansion and retention, so I’m very familiar with those processes. I think the region’s attributes, particular our talented workforce, will be compelling.
We’ve got a population base above 600,000 people. This is a very impressive labor pool for companies that are growing and expanding. Workers here are younger, they’re smarter, they’re more educated and they’re more productive than other areas of the country.
We’ve also got a great story to tell about our existing employers and business assets in the two-county zone. I’m talking about Hill Air Force Base, the Business Depot Ogden industrial park, and the Freeport Center in Clearfield. My point is, we’ve got a great product to sell.
The regional model is relatively new in Utah’s economic development circles. What prompted the approach?
The two counties share infrastructure and workforce. Many people who live in Davis County commute to Weber County and vice-versa. All can access the region’s cultural and recreational assets with equal facility. Leadership realized that a cooperative approach would benefit both counties.
What are your goals both short-term and long-term?
The overarching goal will be to create high-paying jobs and bolster the existing clusters in the area, like the aerospace industry. More immediately, we’re working on a branding strategy for Northern Utah and taking inventory of the existing assets in the zone, including available real estate and the workforce-development capacities of our local university and applied technology colleges. Once the branding strategy is in place, we’ll reach out in earnest to site selectors and start getting the message out.
Could you elaborate on the branding component?
In the minds of site selectors across the country, Silicon Slopes – the region immediately to the south of Salt Lake City – and Salt Lake City itself are pretty well known. The Weber-Davis region is less well known but has distinctive advantages for manufacturing and high tech and aerospace. With this effort, we’re trying to better catch the attention of consultants across the country.
How does EDCUtah fit into the picture?
In my new capacity, I’m actually an EDCUtah employee and will coordinate the use of EDCUtah administrative, marketing, and research resources to support the new organization. I’m working closely with EDCUtah CEO Theresa Foxley and COO Mike Flynn throughout this process.