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Utah Attracts Investment, Educated Work Force With Science Initiatives, Outdoor Sports Niche

Dec/Jan 09
Ongoing research in Utah is cultivating new technologies in renewable energy, specifically geothermal, solar, wind, carbon capture and sequestration, oil shale and tar sands. In November, geothermal power generator Raser Technologies, Inc., inaugurated its first commercial-scale power plant in Beaver County to promote geothermal energy as a price-competitive energy resource. According to the company, the plant, dubbed "Thermo," was built in six months "using a revolutionary modular construction design, greatly reducing the normal five to seven years typically required for traditional plant development and construction technology."

To aid alternative energy endeavors, Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, noted that the Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) is "recruiting great minds to develop and commercialize technologies to Utah." One project involves the exploration of pumping some of the greenhouse gas underground to sequester it from the atmosphere and to push out hard-to-reach oil.

Aerospace projects are taking off around the state. In Provo, Duncan Aviation, Inc. is building its third full-service maintenance facility for business jet aircraft, set to open in 2010, that will provide airframe, engine, interior completions, exterior paint and avionics installation services for business aircraft from around the world. The advanced composite industry, which is involves combining fiber and resin to create a material lighter and stronger than metal, is integral to growth of the aerospace cluster. Hexcel Corp., a domestic manufacturer of carbon fiber, with five buildings at its West Valley City campus and employment of approximately 300 people, has announced an expansion.

Besides aerospace, growth of composites has spurred the outdoor products industry. "Increasingly, outdoor products, such as skis, ski poles, and snowboards are made from composite material," says Perry. "Utah is becoming the world's largest testing facility for the outdoor products; companies can devise it, design it, make it, and test it on the same mountain. There is a lot to be said about that opportunity."

Another growth category, life sciences, is expanding in personalized medicine, the process of identifying and preventing certain genetic markers and predispositions to illness. In October, Governor Jon Huntsman hosted a U.S. Life Science Summit dedicated to advancements in personalized medicine.

Legislatively, "we made significant revisions to state incentive policies for relocation and expansion," says Perry. "We have had significant announcement, expansion, or relocation every month for the past two years." As an example of the state's incentives, he points out a tax credit rebate of up to 30 percent of the company's income, sales and withholding tax for up to 20 years. "We have a completely transparent, consistent, and predictable development process, with very little bureaucracy and a whole lot of business sense built in," he says.

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