LAYTON -- The man who has had a hand in building Layton's economic base, with 50 to 100 new businesses and business relocations to his credit, has taken a job with the state.
Ben Hart, the city's former economic specialist, has been named the first-ever Department of Workforce Services director of employer initiatives.
"It was the right step up," said Hart, 31. He began his new job Tuesday. His duties involve managing proactive employer initiatives and economic projects within DWS.
It was difficult to leave Layton, where he worked for 51/2 years, Hart said. But he was recruited by the state, and they made him a generous offer, he said.
During Hart's tenure with Layton, despite the downturn in the national economy, the city experienced what he termed as "plenty" of economic development.
"We got a lot done in that time," said Hart, who has a master's degree in economics from the University of Utah.
Hart estimates he was part of bringing in or relocating between 50 and 100 Layton businesses.
"I was glad to be part of the team that brought those projects together," he said.
Hart is proudest of the development of the East Gate Business Park, anchored by Janecki Industries, a composite manufacturing company.
Other accomplishments include the partnership between the city and Davis School District in building affordable homes on Golden Avenue for low- to moderate-income families, and the redevelopment of old downtown Layton, which is just under way, he said.
Councilman Michael Bouwhuis said he can't dispute Hart's estimates when it comes to the number of new and relocated businesses he has had a hand in.
"I think he did an excellent job. Especially where he didn't have a background in the economic development industry (when first hired by the city)," Bouwhuis said of Hart, who came from banking.
But Hart grew in learning the business, Bouwhuis said. "I was amazed. I guess my biggest disappointment is that I wanted to see him grow with us. He was just reaching his stride," he said.
The city is taking applications to fill the position.
"It is a tough position to fill where it is such a specialized area," Bouwhuis said. But city officials are hoping to fill the vacancy within 30 to 45 days, he said.
"We don't want to lose any ground," Bouwhuis said, referring to the cities competing for the same businesses.
In helping build Layton, and working with the people he did, the city will never be far from Hart's heart or home. He plans to commute to his new job in Salt Lake City, while he and his family continue to live in west Layton.