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Front Page » April 6, 2004 » Local News » Local connections represent major development factor
Published 4,201 days ago

Local connections represent major development factor

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Sun Advocate community editor

Carbon economic development director Delynn Fielding converses with a business representative as he surveys the empty spaces at Ridge Road Industrial Park. The park currently has only one resident business.

Most Carbon residents realize that the largest direct employers in the county are the coal operations and power companies, with College of Eastern Utah finishing a distant third.

But fewer residents may realize that the primary overall employers in the county and around the nation are small businesses, companies with one to 20 workers.

The economic engine that has run the area for a long time has included hundreds of small employers, many of whom have grown businesses based on spin-offs from the major companies.

Industrial areas are full of companies that serve coal mines and now the gas industry as well. Many businesses are retail services that support the employees of the mines.

What is not as noticeable are the smaller businesses producing products or services unrelated to the area's major industries.

In recent years, a number of reports have inferred that large manufacturing plants are considering relocating to the county. Depending on the industry, employment projections have ranged from 15 to 300 jobs. That could happen. But the development of jobs in the area probably depends on small businesses, most of which have a local connection.

"A review of the top economic development accomplishments in the county during the last three years has revealed one common factor," indicates Delynn Fielding. "That factor is a local connection. Nearly every real success that has had a genuine impact on the local economy was brought about by a local person or someone with family or friends in the area."

The county's economic development director notes that there are many examples that illustrate the point.

In one case, an out of state company opened a local shop because one of the partners grew up in the area. The shop does unique work, competing against no other employers and providing new jobs without decreasing opportunities at another established firm..

"I maintain that the local connection concept is also a way everyone in the county can help add to the tax base," states Fielding. "Everyone in the county is a salesman to help sell the county to outside people and businesses that they may be connected with."

But businesses look for incentives to relocate older facilities or to build new ones.

Carbon County is competing with larger communities, many offering lucrative packages to attract enterprises.

"It's plain to me, by what we have been doing, that we can offer a lot and some of the things we can give businesses, others don't have," explains Fielding.

However, the county's economic director indicates that, despite what may appear like a long list of advantages to attract relocating or starting businesses into the county, Utah is not considered overly appealing to outside enterprises.

"People keep asking why, with all these incentives, the move to our area still isn't happening. The truth is that Utah itself doesn't have that great of incentives," comments Fielding. "We are average when compared to what is done nationally."

However, some companies take advantage of the incentives that are in place. The measures include tangible benefits of locating or relocating a business anywhere in Utah.

The list of incentives includes:

•Targeted business tax credits. A section of the enterprise zone law allows up to a total of $100,000 refundable state tax credits that can be paid to a company for new employees and/or new plant and equipment costs.

The payout back to businesses ranges from two to seven years. This is only available in nine rural counties in the state.

•There is a federal tax credit of up to $8,500 available for companies with qualifying employees.

The plan spells out provisions for several types of qualified employees and can apply to 35 percent of the workers' wages in the first year and up to 50 percent in the second year.

The credit generally applies to disabled individuals.

•A $750 tax credit is available for each full time job created by a qualified employer.

The same business can get up to another $500 tax credit if the newly created job pays 125 percent or more of the average wage in the county and industry which the business is part of.

If the business adds value to an agricultural product, it can get another $750 tax credit. Another $200 credit can be given if the employer provides health insurance and pays at least 50 percent of the premium.

The credits are not available to retail or construction businesses and public utilities. But the incentives can also utilized by existing businesses.

•There are also tax credits available for investments in new plants and equipment.

Businesses can get 10 percent for the first $250,000 and 5 percent of the next $1 million.

•If a business locates in a building that has been vacant for two or more years, the company can get a tax credit of 25 percent of the first $200,000 spent on rehabilitating the structure if it is located within an enterprise zone.

The provision can also apply to existing businesses within the enterprise zone as well.

•There are numerous tax credits that are available to businesses that recycle or promote recycling within the companies' processes.

In some cases, the amounts of money gained can be almost unlimited, depending on the circumstances.

•There are also provisions for the refund or relief from sales tax for certain companies that buy new equipment for starting up plants.

The relief applies to only manufacturing businesses, but doesn't only apply to start-ups. Existing businesses can take advantage of this provision..

While the above incentives can be offered by many areas of the state and even the nation, there are some very specific advantages for an employer to locate to the Carbon County area.

•A well educated and competent work force for many kinds of industrial work. Many people in the area have various kinds of experience with industrial type settings and CEU, as well as the Applied Technology College have also turned out numerous graduates over the years that have been trained in some of these and related fields.

•The average pay rate in the county is attractive to many types of employers because it is lower than many larger cities.

While lower wages may not be the optimum situation for individual workers, it does provide one more incentive for employers to look to the area for expansion.

•Carbon County is unique in what it offers as far as transportation goes for a community of a similar size.

The county has relatively ready access to a major north/south and east/west interstate system - Interstate 15 and 1-70. The local area also has rail lines that cut through the middle of the county. The system is served by national railroad companies, with a short line road also ready and willing to serve customers.

The county's airport has the third longest runway in the state at 8,300 feet and is IFR rated.

•The area offers custom fit training that can be provided by various local agencies. If a company is considering moving to the county a custom fit representative can discuss with the principals of the enterprise the company training needs and can develop a plan to meet the needs. This kind of aid can save a company thousands of dollars in training cost start-ups and training maintenance as well. Custom fit services can apply to existing businesses as well as new or relocated ones.

•Since Carbon County is considered a rural area, the state's industrial assistance fund can pay up to $100,000 to a business and the company's employees for relocation costs.

•The cost of doing business in Carbon County is lower than in many places, particularly California. The situation bodes well for the area and for locals who might have contacts in the Golden State.

"Obviously, there are a lot of things many areas can do to attract businesses," points out Fielding. "But we have some very good things going for us."

"I think one of the main things is that we have agencies and communities that are willing to cooperate with each other to do what it takes when specific businesses are interested," indicates the economic development director.

That was proven recently when proposal was made to locate a substantial manufacturing business along a section of Ridge Road in Wellington.

"The county, both Price and Wellington, other local agencies and a number of individuals offered to make some concessions for our proposal to that enterprise. I think that is probably the most positive of any of the incentives we have in Carbon County; community leaders and individuals that care," concludes Fielding.

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