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Regional Review: FDI Adds to Vitality of the Mountain States

The Mountain States’ economies were driven over the past 12 months by a mixture of modern and emerging sectors, including information technology, and old standbys like dairy. At the same time, foreign investment came from a variety of sources to add to the vitality of the region.

Location USA / April 2013
The ebay project, located in Draper, Utah, is expected to add 2,200 jobs.
The ebay project, located in Draper, Utah, is expected to add 2,200 jobs.
Two of the most significant FDI developments occurred in Nevada, which has invested heavily in its relationship with China in the hope of attracting new business to the state. Alternative energy technologies produced early victories in that effort.

Nevada scored by attracting A-Power Energy Generation Systems to establish a wind turbine manufacturing facility for the U.S. market. Based in the southern part of the state, the 340,000-square-foot manufacturing facility employs 1,000 people at an initial investment of $344 million.

At the same time, China-based Zhuhai Yintong Energy Co. Ltd. (an affiliate of Canon Investment Holdings) purchased controlling interest in Altair Nanotechnologies. The result will be an uptick in Nevada-based activity to support the production of battery cells in China.

Colorado, which attracts foreign investment aggressively through its Office of International Trade, reported approximately 14 projects producing nearly 3,000 jobs.

IT Driving Expansion
Information technology drove significant economic expansion in Utah over the past 12 months, with Adobe and eBay breaking ground on campuses, each of which totaled 40 acres. The Adobe project, right on the border between Salt Lake County and Utah County — in the heart of the state’s biggest population center — is expected to create 1,000 jobs, and earned the company a $40 million tax break from the state over 20 years. The eBay project, located in Draper, is expected to add 2,200 jobs (more than doubling eBay’s employment in the community) and is slated to open this year. The project received a 20-year tax break of $38.2 million from the state.

Along the same lines, data services drove significant job growth over the past year in Wyoming, with companies at both ends of the size spectrum expanding in the state. In Cheyenne, Microsoft announced a $112 million investment in a new data center that will result in the creation of 40 new jobs.

But local companies did more than their share. Cheyenne-based Green House Data announced it would invest $35 million in a new, 25,000-square-foot, high-density facility that will create approximately 25 new jobs, while Sheridan-based Ptolemy Data Services announced plans to build a 5,500-square-foot data center in its home community. And in Utah, ITT Corp.’s expansion of its ITT Exelis operations in Salt Lake City means the addition of about 100 employees annually for an indefinite period. ITT is relocating the composite-structures operation to a new 300,000-square-foot facility near Salt Lake City International Airport.

“Low-Tech” & Other Developments

If the high-tech world drove some economic development, the decidedly low-tech dairy cow made a difference too. Idaho’s long-standing strength in the dairy industry helped land the state two major economic development wins during the past year — both in the city of Twin Falls.

The first saw Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani open a second high-capacity manufacturing facility on 200 acres of agricultural and industrial land in Twin Falls — representing a $450 million investment and more than 300 new jobs. Meanwhile, Glanbia Foods — a producer of cheeses that have won awards internationally — is investing $15 million to build a state-of-the-art innovation center and corporate headquarters in the city. It will include a 35,000-square-foot office complex and a 14,000-square-foot research center that will focus on new product innovation efforts. Glanbia expects to initially hire 100 people at the facility, and eventually expand that number to 150.

A spokesperson for the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization cited the state’s strength in dairy in helping to attract both projects. Idaho ranks third in the country for milk production and third in cheese production. Both are focused in the south central region of the state known as The Magic Valley.

Other major developments in the region include the Denver-based commercial vacuum manufacturer Vacutech relocation to Sheridan, Wyoming, citing lower costs of doing business and better quality of life. The firm’s owners cited good air and rail service to the community as well as a readily available, well-trained work force to help fill the company’s need for highly skilled welders, designers, and laborers. More than 40 people have already been hired.

Meanwhile, Proctor and Gamble built its first greenfield plant in over 40 years in the small rural community of Corinne, Utah. The one-million-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility represents a $300 million investment.

Other local expansions include Cody, Wyoming-based Cody Laboratories, which will add a 24,000-square-foot warehouse and 45 employees, and Brunton Outdoor Company, which is returning to Riverton, Wyoming, with its base plate compass manufacturing operation, bringing with it 50 jobs.

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