Ogden has made economic strides

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:03 PM

Tom Christopulos

Each year, Ogden city evaluates its economic development efforts. Recently, Ogden and its metropolitan area have received much positive attention from the national media due to its economic success. For example, the Brookings Institute currently ranks the Ogden-Clearfield Metropolitan Area 19th in the nation in its economic recovery performance ranks. These acknowledgements are appreciated, but what do they really mean? Certainly, the turnaround that Ogden has made in the past years has been nothing short of remarkable. It may be even more noteworthy that a city so impacted by decades of job loss was able to recover so quickly.

Ogden city has continued to make consistent and vigorous efforts to recruit companies to the city and help existing businesses, both large and small, thrive. There are many methods that the city uses to increase jobs. One of those methods is business recruitment. Ogden’s recent recruitment successes over the past year include the creation of approximately 1,700 by several companies such as Home Depot and Wayfair.

While the community should celebrate these successes and the new jobs that they will provide to Ogden residents, business recruitment is only one aspect of Ogden’s efforts to stimulate economic growth.

Ogden has successfully used tax-increment financing to redevelop many blighted areas in its downtown core and at Business Depot Ogden (where the Boyer Company has led a nationally-recognized effort in military base reuse) to provide businesses with a quality environment. Millions of dollars have been used to clean up various areas, including the Ogden River and underground pollution that had devalued the city. Without the removal of the blight and contamination that plagued areas of the city, redevelopment simply would not have occurred and the jobs mentioned above would have gone other places. The attractiveness of the city has improved attested by the numbers of new businesses that have located here.

In addition to recruiting and redevelopment efforts, the city also focuses on helping small businesses both start and thrive. Through the Community Development Block Grant program, Ogden has established a small business program that provides loans to help new and existing small businesses. With the help of Weber State University and the Service Core of Retired Executives, Ogden also provides free business consultations at the Business Information Center.

Ogden knows that local government can encourage and lead redevelopment, but ultimately government cannot turn around an economy without investment from the private sector. To this end, the city, along with the Ogden Industrial Development Corporation, has created capital resources to provide resources that enable the city to "stay ahead of the curve" in economic development.

In 2009, Ogden’s Community and Economic Development began the process of starting a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI). CDFIs are not-for-profits institutions that provide development finance to underserved communities. A result of the city’s efforts, the Ogden Reinvestment Corporation (ORC) has attracted new investment from private financial institutions to provide loans for up to $150,000 to local businesses that are unable to obtain bank financing.

The city is also committed to bringing high-tech jobs to Ogden. This is not an easy task, but Ogden has made strides in the right direction. Ogden was awarded a $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration that will enable Ogden city and Weber State University to partner in the creation of "Start-up Ogden," a mobile app "accelerator." Start-up Ogden will provide small, no interest loans, training, and legal and business support to start-up mobile application companies.

Ogden’s commitment to economic development can also be seen in the expansion at Ogden-Hinckley Airport. Through local and federal financing, Ogden is building a new, expanded terminal that will provide regional air service. The initial service will be between Ogden and Mesa, Arizona, and the city is hopeful that service will expand to more destinations. The city expects to realize significant economic benefits from regional air service.

This development has not been easy, and the city has used many economic development tools to help spur and invest in economic improvement. These investments are not made without serious analysis of potential benefits and a watchful eye for the current and future prosperity of Ogden residents. Ogden can simply not afford to passively wait and hope that economic development will occur. A proactive approach must be taken to ensure economic vitality.

There is no question that Ogden has been able to leverage the overall success of Utah and the other communities in our metropolitan area. However, that success should not diminish the significant contribution that Ogden has made in terms of job creation and redevelopment.

Ogden has not been spared from the difficulties of the Great Recession, but it has made a faster recovery than the vast majority of other communities in the country. Ogden will continue to strive to attract quality jobs to the city.

Christopulos is the director of Community and Economic Development for Ogden city.

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