OGDEN -- City officials hope to make Ogden the cycling capital of the United States, but they say the key to getting there is nearly 7,000 miles away.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell and City Business Development Director Steve Fishburn recently spent a week in Taiwan, pitching Taiwanese bicycle manufacturers on the benefits of setting up shop in Ogden.
Representatives from the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah also made the trip.
While in Taiwan, the group got an close-up look at the country's cycling industry, visiting several manufacturing facilities in Taichung. The group also took in the Taipei International Cycle Show.
Caldwell said the city's aim is to turn Ogden into a North American cycling cluster, bringing an interconnected concentration of cycling businesses to the city -- similar to the thriving Northern Utah aerospace industry.
In Taiwan, the group had more than 20 appointments with area cycling companies. Caldwell said that, as a result of the visit, the city now has five "strong leads" with companies it thinks will come to Ogden in some shape or form.
Caldwell said the city plans to spend the next couple months building relationships with the companies, answering questions and sending specific lease space information for Business Depot Ogden, where most of the city's current cycling companies reside.
"We're trying to show these Taiwanese companies that we understand the industry and that we have a blueprint here for their success," Caldwell said.
A cycling company in Asia might want to locate in Ogden for several reasons, he said.
"First of all, we have a unique mixture of elements. Any kind of cycling you can do, you can do it here."
Caldwell also said the North American cycling industry is constantly expanding and there is money to be made here for the Taiwanese companies.
The people of Taiwan and other areas in Asia think of cycling as a way to get from point A to point B, and are not consumed with the latest and greatest in technology, Caldwell said.
But in the United States, "you have bike geeks who don't blink an eye at spending $3,000 on a carbon-fiber wheel set," he said.
Fishburn said the cycling industry has been a focus of his for quite some time. Last year, he recruited Tektro USA, a manufacturer of high-quality braking systems for bikes, to Ogden.
"We think it's really something we can capitalize on," he said.
Lance Larrabee, general manager of Tektro, said he moved his business from California to Ogden because he believes in the city's vision.
"There are a lot of reasons we came to Ogden, but the outdoor industry -- and now particularly the cycling industry -- are starting to really grow. It kind of feels like we're getting in on the ground floor of something special."
Along with Tektro, Ogden has added several cycling companies to the area in the past several years, including Quality Bicycle Products, Scott Sports, ENVE Composites, and Amer Sports.
"These companies we are trying to bring in tend to go where they have support," Caldwell said.
"And we are already starting to build up some critical mass for our cycling industry here, so that's appealing to them."
Both Fishburn and Caldwell said it was a major victory for the city when Minnesota-based Quality Bike Products brought a large distribution center to Ogden two years ago.
QBP is the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in the cycling industry. Its 85,000-square-foot Ogden facility ships thousands of products all over North America.
Howard Peterson, site manager at the Ogden space, said the facility employs 79 people and plans to expand.
"Getting QBP to come here was huge," Fishburn said. "They are the industry leader, and all these other companies want to follow them and be near them. It gives us a great thing to build on."
Caldwell and Fishburn both say that if Ogden's cycling industry booms, as they expect it to, it will have tremendous impact on the economy.
"The jobs you typically see in the cycling industry are higher-paid engineering, sales and marketing jobs," Caldwell said.
"And that's what we want to bring in. The potential for what this could do for Ogden is amazing."