Fox File #92: Southwestern Utah KTC Campaign
Under the Know the Customer (KTC) initiative, EDCUtah staff are sitting down with executives across the state and across industries, and asking them the same set of in-depth questions regarding their business, growth plans, challenges, workforce, and connections to in-state resources. We recently topped the 50 mark and are on our way to completing 100 of these deep-dive conversations by next summer.
Last week, EDCUtah’s Stephanie Frohman and Michael O’Malley traveled to Cedar City and Milford to conduct five interviews. Gathering insights from companies off the Wasatch Front is critical to the overall effectiveness of the KTC initiative, in order to capture a balanced view of Utah’s challenges and inform the policies the State might adjust or enact. We appreciate the time these southwestern Utah executives spent with our team.
Most of the companies Stephanie and Michael talked with are in manufacturing. The overall tone of these conversations was optimistic. The executives appreciate Utah’s business-friendly approach, and the geographic and infrastructure advantages for distribution that southwestern Utah offers.
A number of the companies operate as units of multinational corporations, and they conveyed that their headquarters view the Utah locations in a positive light. One said, “Utah has a well-respected voice at the table” when it comes to formulating long-term strategy.
Finding talent has grown more difficult in a tight job market, but these companies are offering clear pathways of training and career advancement to the people they do attract. Once they have a good employee, they are typically successful in retaining them and training them up for bigger and better jobs. Hands down, every employer Stephanie and Michael spoke to was delighted with the partnership and support in workforce development they were getting from Southwest Technical College. One went so far as to say that their “sites in other states are jealous” because of it.
However, not all the news was positive. Getting new employees in the door in the first place is a challenge, especially at the entry level. A talent shortage is hindering several employers from expanding production and product lines. More positively, technicians and engineers are easier to hire, especially from Southern Utah University. The employers tended to agree that technical talent from southwestern Utah is firmly and happily rooted to the area.
EDCUtah will continue to seek out interviews with other rural Utah businesses. We appreciate the efforts of Dan Stewart of Cedar City/Iron County economic development for his help in arranging interviews last week. We will reach out to his peers in other counties to continue our statewide listening campaign.
The goal of the KTC initiative is to better understand the factors that drive economic growth in Utah’s key industry sectors. More information can be found here.