OGDEN — The defense and aerospace industry has and will continue to help bolster the economy along Utah’s most northern reaches.
That was one of the themes that emerged during the Northern Utah Business Economic Forecast, held Wednesday at Hub 801 Events in Ogden. The forum is a partnership between the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce, the Bank of Utah and Weber State University’s John B. Goddard School of Business and Economics.
The panel discussion featured local business and economy authorities, a group that set out to provide Northern Utah’s business community with an insider’s perspective on the region’s economy. The broad spectrum of speakers — from the state’s aerospace industry, commercial real estate and higher education — mirrors the collaborative efforts that keep area’s economy churning, said Chuck Leonhardt, president of the OW chamber.
Leonhardt said Northern Utah’s economy is strong, in large part due to partnerships between independent, local businesses and the area’s sectors of government, health care and education.
“These partnerships are what is making our economy roll,” he said. “And it’s what we expect will drive it in the future.”
While many industries contribute, it’s undeniable that a key piece of the economic equation in Weber and Davis counties is Hill Air Force Base and the aerospace industry that supplements it.
Gordie Russell, regional senior vice president at Northrop Grumman, said Hill’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program will add 1,200 well-paying jobs on the base in the next three to four years. The program will also generate thousands of indirect jobs (like government contractor and private company positions) that will support the mission, he said.
Russell said the industry will need lots of engineers, scientists, production specialists and other workers from STEM-related fields during the next several years.
Brandon Fugal, chairman of Colliers International in Utah, said Hill’s Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park development will continue to impact Northern Utah’s economy for years to come.
Built under the Department of Defense’s Enhanced-Use Lease program (which allows private entities to lease underused military land) the park has provided additional jobs and revitalized infrastructure that includes new roads, utilities and buildings since construction began in 2008.
Fugal said Falcon Hill will continue to bring jobs to Northern Utah during future years and not just in the aerospace industry. He predicts technology companies and others will also locate there.
Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, spoke beyond its northern confines and said Utah was the fourth fastest growing economy in the nation between 2017 and 2018, with major industry job growth seeing positive results across the board.
“Right now, every major industry is growing,” Gochnour said.
She said Utah County is presently “carrying the Utah economy on its shoulders” with 5 percent job growth between 2017 and 2018, but was optimistic about future potential in Northern Utah.