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Front Page » May 26, 2005 » The Business Journal » The Puzzle Master
Published 3,405 days ago

The Puzzle Master


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By RICHARD SHAW
General manager

Imagine putting a puzzle together without being able to look at some rendition of what it is supposed to look like when it is done.

Imagine putting a puzzle together, knowing that most of the time the pieces will not all fit together.

Imagine putting a puzzle together where over 90 percent of the time, pieces are missing from it.

Imagine what could be one of the most frustrating jobs in Carbon County.

Then imagine what Delynn Fielding does day after day. He puts puzzles together, but not those that come from a box or a toy store; his come from the real life world of attracting business to a rural county that has a lot to offer, but sometimes not a lot to give.

Fielding is the economic development director for Carbon County and in his few years in the job he has learned at least one important lesson: Nothing is ever certain even when it is.

He works out of a non-descript office he shares with the county's new conference planner in an old school that is now the Carbon Community Center. And soon he will lose that space as the building is leveled to build a new addition to the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum.

Nothing is ever certain, as this master puzzle maker knows.

The puzzles in his life are questions, specific questions he asks himself every time a business inquires about locating a plant, office, store or manufacturing facility in the area.

"I see myself as selling the county," says Fielding as he sits behind his desk that is located next to a wall that has a crack that runs from floor to ceiling. A good reason to knock down an aging building. "But I also have to view myself as the helpful hardware man. I help to provide the potential business with all the angles it needs to put a business here."

Angles? There are a lot of them and they have to fit together, and fit together well.

Fielding often faces many more defeats than he does victories in the war for attracting firms to the area.

"It's typical that there is always something different about a business and their needs," he says. "I find myself always matching things together."

Seems simple doesn't it. A business comes into town, wants a place to locate, power, water, sewer, a workforce that is ready to do their bidding and of course a way to get their goods or services into or out of the area. But the pieces of what they want don't always fit with what is available, and even when all the pieces fit fine, the final one section of the puzzle creates a problem.

It's called competition. Not the business' competitor, but the competitors with Carbon County to get that business to move there instead of here. Some of that competition comes from outside the state or even the continent. But a lot of it comes from the Wasatch Front or other rural counties that want the business to locate there as bad as Carbon does.

"We often find out about interested businesses from leads that are sent to us from the state economic development office," states Fielding. "That lead usually includes a comprehensive list of the needs the business has."

Once Fielding has a prospect there are a number of things he must do to keep them on line toward locating in Carbon County.

•First county officials must do things so businesses stay interested in locating here, and local people must stay interested in the possibility. Fielding says it's a "we can do this" mentality.

•Once contacted Fielding says he must contact the company and put out a request for proposal to them.

•The next key is to get the company to do a site visit to look at the general structure of things in the area.

•Next Fielding puts together a detailed prospectus on site availability, infrastructure, costs, and other details for the firm.

•He then tries to bring together key local government leaders and private business people to meet with the firm's officials over a meal. This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other.

•Finally, he then tries to nail down a final proposal to the business which can lead to a decision on the business' part.

One of the success stories since Fielding has been working for the county is U.S. Field Research, a call center that is located in the Ridge Road Industrial Park. The center finally moved in late March of this year and now employees over 80 people from the area. Plans are to expand it even farther and hire more help.

"The problem here is that things don't move quickly," he says. "They take time."

Problem is that everyone in the state gets that list too and then the game of luring that business to a location to come and look begins.

Fielding evaluates each and every one of the leads. Often he can plainly see the area doesn't have a chance for a business because Carbon doesn't have the infrastructure or even the facilities.

For instance if a business is considering moving to the area and wants a 1,000,000 square foot facility ready to go, Carbon is out. There are no buildings of that size for rent, lease or sale in the area.

"There are just a lot of leads that don't fit us," he explains.

But even when Carbon infrastructure fits a lead, things are not a sure thing.

Recently, Fielding was working with a steel recycling company that he saw as being a perfect fit for the area. The company needed rail lines, ground transportation, a large area for the plant and a blue collar workforce to man the operation. Fielding found them three different locations; they selected one. He got the transportation lined up. He even went so far as to check on training through the existing vocational training outlets in the area. It looked very good, until one little problem cropped up.

Power. The company needed scads of electricity. They needed to have access to what is called an "infinite buss."

Wouldn't it make sense that in an area with all the coal anyone could want to burn and with four major power plants located within 40 miles of the site there would be enough power to supply such a facility?

That became one of those dead ends; a puzzle piece that was missing in an otherwise complete mural on the card table.

But despite a lot of setbacks over the years, a few successes that have arrived, Fielding is always upbeat and he is even more so this spring.

"We have a business atmosphere in this community right now unlike anything I have seen in the past," says Fielding. "We have groups of people working hard to attract other business. We have support and committment we have never had before."

'

One case in point that he denotes did not turn out so well, but it proved what the community could do when it wanted to and Fielding feels that kind of cooperation will eventually pay off big.

Last year a gate company was looking at the area to locate a plant here. The businesses officials seemed positive about Carbon county and as the project gained speed everyone in the county joined forces to make it happen. The county and the city cooperated along with the utility suppliers. Some businessmen in the area pulled some strings to get a piece of property lined up to build the facility. Everything looked good. But then the competition stepped in.

Almost everyone who reads or listens to the news has heard of business incentives. States offer them, counties offere them and even cities offer them. Another county in the state wanted the business and piled on the incentives, and Carbon worked hard to stay up.

But when it came to the end, once again a piece of the puzzle was missing and the business went north. After all the work, all the cooperation, all the ideas, it was a hard pill for everyone to swallow.

"This business of attracting business to an area has to do with who the last guy a firm saw and what he offered them," said Fielding.

But lessons have been learned, and Fielding is confident that there are some things the county and its citizens can do to assure more business coming to the area.

"The first thing we must do, and I have seen this successful a number of times in the county is to use our contacts in other places," he says. "Most of the successful move ins have come from contacts related to people who are here. There is a hook for the business to hang its hat on."

Fielding says that everyone in the county should be a promoter of business and talk to those they know on the outside that might want to come here.


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May 26, 2005
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