Yesterday was the fourth education day in my LNU journey. If you’re a new reader, I suggest going back to the beginning where I talk about what Leadership Northern Utah is and how I got involved. You can also find information on the first three ed days here; October: an overview of Ogden/Weber County, November: Homelessness in Weber County, December: front-line community services and a tour of downtown.
Yesterday was all about Economic Development, both in the public and the private sector. How businesses play a role, how and why government is involved and third party players like property developers/managers.
Our day started at the Chamber of Commerce offices, as always, for a brief discussion of our upcoming project. One of the main goals of LNU is to complete a community benefit project prior to our graduation from the program in June. We have settled on a project now and are in the process of compiling data and resources so we can map out our timeline and task list.
From there we headed to the county offices for a meeting with Weber County Director of Economic Development, Doug Larsen. This was probably the most interesting (for me) part of the day and I could have stayed and asked questions for another several hours. Doug was really generous in sharing with our group the Weber Economic Development Partnership’s Progress Report that was originally compiled to report back to the county commissioner. The report outlines the group’s core values and objectives, what business expansion/attraction/retention projects the group has successfully completed since the program’s implementation in 2012, as well as the economic impact of those efforts. It also outlines their major goals for the next 5-15 years and their primary objectives in the interim. One thing that I asked about and would really love to see more of from the EDP (and Ogden City’s econ development council) is a bigger and better platform for public education on what these groups are doing. I mean honestly, it is incredible and people should know what their government is doing to actively drive economic increase – in home values, in job opportunities, in quality of education, in quality of life and everything in between. This is a major goal for me this year; get this story out there.
Next up was Cottages of Hope. I’ll be brutally honest in telling you that we spent nearly an hour being presented to and I left with very little understanding of what it is this group does. I understand that they want to provide financial training and bring various services together under one roof so that client’s have “coordinated case management” but I really can’t tell you what Cottages of Hope does themselves. I was also a little put off by some of the statistics that were shared with us like “we can help a client in a third of the time as workforce services” but then explaining how they limit their clients – it seems like a pretty cherry-picked way to serve the community and then boast about your results. And maybe that’s cynical of me, that’s just the vibe I got. We were told that they’ll provide free tax preparation for anyone, come to your work etc. but we never got the full rundown on how they were funded. Being that I’m the marketing VP for Junior League of Ogden (a 501c3) and am looking into starting my own nonprofit the lesson I learned here, and I’m going to manipulate a verse from the Bible: “have a vision and make it plain.” And then this…from my Stanford class on startups: “If it takes more than a sentence to define what you’re doing, it’s too complicated.”
Our next stop was Peery’s Egyptian Theater and the Ogden Eccles Convention Center. I believe I mentioned the theater in a previous LNU post, but here are the facts anyways. It was built in 1924 and the reason for this being the “egyptian theater” as well as others around the country, is that King Tut’s tomb had been discovered the year previously and there was a huge craze across the country for all things egyptian. It’s amazing to me that the building lasted through all of Ogden’s history (including a phase where the theater was painted pepto bismol pink because the egyptian thing had gone out of style). Somewhere around the 80s the theater was in serious disrepair and it just sort of sat there for a bit. It was remodeled and the convention center was added to the north side in 1997. Fun fact for you: Peery’s in Ogden is one of the Sundance film festival locations and there are 13 films playing, starting next Saturday. Check out the guide I put together for 25th Street.
(a hand sketch of the theater renovations)
The Convention Center tour was interesting and they shared a lot of stats with us on how the building is used, what types of visitors come through Ogden and how all of that comes together to positively impact the community – bed taxes, general tourist spending stats, etc. We had lunch there as well, complete with what might have been the best piece of chocolate cake I’ve ever had. I know, from a convention center. Really.
Our next meeting was waylaid a bit which I actually really appreciated because it gave me a chance to check my voicemail, reply to some urgent emails and let me brain recoup for a bit. These LNU days are great but one of my biggest complaints is that it is here, and then here, and then here and we don’t get any down time to brain dump over what we’ve learned or noticed, etc. There’s really no engagement with our group beyond whoever you happen to ride with between locations. Meh…I’ll get off my soap box.
The rest of our day was spent at in the Business Depot Ogden which was originally called the Defense Depot Ogden and used for logistical supply chain and later as an Italian and German POW camp during WWII. Now, it’s an industrial park with offices for places like esurance, Wayfair, and Hershey’s. We met with Boyer Company, the property managers for the BDO and other places around the area. We got to see an overview map of the area and their development plans for the future as well as preservation plans for the existing structures. And then we went and visited two businesses that call the BDO home.
The first was Barnes Aerospace – where we had to turn in our cell phones and agree not to share anything proprietary, like we’d know it if we saw it lol. I was totally impressed by Barnes from the way they’ve reincorporated humanity into the Toyota Production System, LEAN and all that, to the way they value input from every level of the company, to the absolute order and cleanliness on their production line. I was really, really blown away. Nick is in manufacturing and his company deals with a lot of these same issues – and implements many of the same programs – but it’s the human factor that we have discussed a lot. TPS doesn’t really care how happy or consistent employees are at the end of the day, or if a lower level employee has input on how the line should operate. TPS really comes from the top down and I know Nick and I have both felt that it misses the mark in a lot of ways. It was really refreshing to see Barnes making revisions to that system based on their value for employees, of which something like 75% has worked there for more than 8 years.
(Genco Hershey lobby display)
Our final stop of the day was at Genco Hershey which is a regional distribution center for Hershey’s! You better believe we had our fair share of candy during that presentation. It was really quite baffling how much chocolate they have in that facility. I’m totally going to misquote this but I think it was something like 40 million tons when they are at full capacity. Ummm…what?? Even if that number is wrong, which I’m sorry I really should have written it down but I was too busy eating my Mr Goodbar, just know that it’s really a freaking lot of candy and this isn’t even the main center. Another fun fact for you: FedEx just bought out Genco and this distribution center will soon be FedEx Hershey. Here’s hoping that means every Amazon delivery comes with a treat?!
I missed out on the tour of their facility but I can imagine what it looks like inside. Places that deal with shipping and logistics are incredible. Have you ever been in the warehouse for a UPS station? It’s totally like the doors retrieval system you see on Monsters Inc. Logistics like that is something I would love, love, love to learn and work with hands on. Nerd alert.
Okay, so remember how I said the day was about how private businesses, local government and third party managers all play a role in the economic development of our area? Here’s the micro thesis statement that I’ll offer up in conclusion
I very much value the driving force of economic development on a governmental level; the government has the power and ability to create the climate necessary for growth. How? Roads, electrical, general infrastructure – as well as education programs that are conducive to training the workforce necessary to woo new businesses and sectors into the area. Private businesses are important because you want to have companies that can pay their employees well, value education opportunities and want to give-back to the community they work in. Third party managers like the Boyer Group property management team are of equal importance because they develop and maintain the properties necessary for bringing in big (and small) businesses, especially for clients who aren’t interested in owning a building or a property.
Of course, this education day wasn’t my first glimpse into the world of economic development. This is my industry (and also my hobby I suppose). So if I’ve skipped over a relevant point or you have any questions -or want to get connected with any of these folks or previous LNU topics – please, please, please feel free to reach out via email thefamilypracticeblog[@]gmail or in the comments section below.