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Cache County.


Cache County's first business crowd wore buckskins instead of button-downs, carried rifles instead of briefcases, and "cached" a huge inventory of beaver pelts underground. The mountain men who trapped in northern Utah in the early 1800s did a brisk business.

While their entrepreneurial exuberance may have trapped the beaver into near oblivion, the mountain men set a determined pace for commerce in Cache County that has yet to slow.

Situated above 4,000 feet in the fertile, green expanse of northern Utah's Cache Valley, Cache County is nestled between the snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountain's Bear River Range to the east and the Wellsville Mountains to the south and west. Cache Valley, at first breathtaking glance from Wellsville Canyon, looks more like a vacation spot than the thriving "micrometropolitan" area American Demographics Magazine named as one of the top 25 in the United States.

Unified Strategy

Logan, the county seat, is home to Utah State University (USU), established in 1888. Logan, 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, is the largest town in a county of over 70,000 people, not including the more than 15,000 students enrolled at the university. The presence of the university in this rural setting adds cultural diversity to the composition of the Cache County community and draws quality cultural offerings to the valley. Logan has several fine restaurants, easily accessible downtown shopping, a mall, and a variety of religious congregations. The city also serves as the economic hub for this four-season "playground."

The 19 towns that comprise Cache County are loosely connected by Highway 89-91, a straight shot off Interstate 15 through spectacular Wellsville Canyon. These nicely appointed towns share a bond--a carefully wrought, forward-thinking strategy for economic development. It is a blueprint for the future that already boasts across-the-board community support and a growing list of enviable successes.

"We were the first [area in the state] to put together a strategic plan for the county, and we followed it," said Bobbie Coray, director of Cache Economic Development. "We began the process almost six years ago and have added more than 8,000 jobs and 150 new employers in those years. We have maintained a very aggressive posture for recruiting businesses. We are particularly interested in small, technology-based companies that will hire people here and provide them with career opportunities. We also work very closely with our existing businesses to help them expand their operations."

Prominent Employers

Cache Valley's list of existing businesses is impressive. It includes Bourns Network Division, Herff Jones, Moore Business Forms, Presto Products, as well as the major food processors such as Cache Valley Cheese, Gossners, E. A. Miller, Tri Miller, and Schriebers. Pepperidge Farm, in Richmond, a branch operation of Campbell Soup Co., has been a major employer in Cache County since 1974. "Pepperidge Farm, with more than 500 employers, chose Cache Valley because we wanted to better serve the western U.S. market," said George Litvak, plant manager. "We ship our food products out by truck for freshness but also have rail access. Some of the advantages we enjoy here are a well-educated work force with a good work ethic. Also, we have a low turnover rate, and the cost of living here isn't exorbitant."

Not all of Cache County's major employers are transplants. Weslo/Proform Fitness Products in Logan, the county's largest private employer, is homegrown. Now owned by Weider Health and Fitness, headquartered in California, Weslo was started in 1977 by two USU students and a local accountant. Today, Weslo holds more than 30 percent of the international home-fitness equipment market, with sales for 1990 exceeding $200 million. Weslo employs more than 1,500 people at its $15-million facility located in the Logan River Business Park, said David Watterson, senior vice president of marketing.

"There has not been a year here without growth," Watterson said. "We conducted a feasibility study after being solicited to relocate by cities in California, Nevada, and others in Utah. The conclusion was to stay right here. We were the first tenant in the business park the city created."

In addition to the new business park, Weslo selected Logan as its location for several reasons. The university environment; the variety of technical training classes offered by Bridgerland Applied Technology Center in Logan; and the educated, productive labor pool were just a few of the other factors that influenced Weslo's decision, said John White, senior vice president of manufacturing.

"Also the truck transportation rates out of here are exceptional," Watterson added. "There is competition for outgoing freight here. We would like to see a commuter airline come into the valley though. It's an hour and 15 minutes to the Salt Lake airport, but it's not uncommon to take that amount of time to get to the airport in other cities. We have door-to-door limo service here."

But Cache County is more than just another pretty place. According to Cache Economic Development, the county offers a low crime rate, excellent city and county schools, one of the lowest property-tax rates in the state, and a strong research university. The presence of USU was a key factor in bringing alumna Loretta Gallent back to Cache Valley from Louisiana nearly three years ago. Gallent, chair of the board of Digitran, brought Digitran, her company, back with her. Digitran designs and builds training simulators for drilling and production procedures in the petroleum industry. The company also designs and builds crane simulators. Engineers make up the majority of its work force.

"We control 95 percent of the [international simulator] market in the petroleum industry and 100 percent of the [simulator] market in the crane industry," said Stephen Neeley, vice president. "In today's business environment all that's needed is a phone, a fax machine, and a nearby airport to do business. We have all that and more here. We have been in Logan nearly three years and have more than doubled our sales in that time. We expect continued growth. This is a very good place to grow a business."

Technology Transfer

In addition to turning out superior graduates in a variety of disciplines, including business, mechanical and space engineering, and computer science, the university is strongly committed to technology transfer, said Bartell Jensen, vice president for research at USU.

"Traditionally, universities have not been good at technology transfer," Jensen said. "We're working hard at it, and we're learning. We're taking an aggressive position to get new technologies out the [university] door and into the private sector. We have more than $95 million in competitive grants and contracts."

The Space Dynamics Laboratory at USU, which is involved in experimentation and instrumentation for upper atmospheric and space measurements, has spawned a number of high-tech, start-up businesses. Space Systems Engineering (SSE) is a prime example. The company designs and builds low background infrared sensor systems for space exploration, as well as accessories and callibration systems for the sensors. It is located in the USU Research and Technology Park in Logan.

"The research park, the brainchild of Dr. Bartell Jensen, currently has 14 private companies and four university- related offices," said Wayne Watkins, director of the research park and director of technology commercialization for USU. "The park ground is owned by the university but is leased to the private sector on a long-term lease at one dollar per year. The one-dollar option will be available until 1994. Companies can construct their own building or lease facilities from a private-sector developer."

Infrastructure: Ready and Waiting

Companies that decide to build their own facilities or just expand existing ones can rest assured that Cache County's infrastructure has been designed to handle growth, according to Rod Blossom, public works director for Logan City. Logan City provides regional sewer services for the towns of North Logan; Providence; River Heights; Hyde Park; and Smithfield, the second largest city in the county, with a population of just over 5,000. In addition, the valley will have in-town bus service beginning in the fall.

"Around 75 percent of the county's population lives in the towns we serve," Blossom said. "We just completed a $6.5 million sewer upgrade which doubled the capacity of the lagoons. Now we're set for at least the next 20 years. We handle water for Logan only. We've put in new reservoirs and added 3.5 million gallons in storage. Logan has always had a good water system with good sources, but we're always looking to develop new sources. We have a municipal power company that has low rates. We own our own power, so we can keep a steady rate and good capacity. We can handle growth."

"We're planning for future development, but we want Cache County to continue to be a nice place," Balls said. "We want future development along the highways to include landscaping and have eye appeal."

A Pro-Business Stance

The growth the county is facing will be unprecedented, said Kent Webb, executive vice president of Golden Spike Bank in Logan. "Cache County is pro-business," Webb said. "From a banker's standpoint, the economy is growing and doing very well. There's a lot of outside money coming in. Ten years ago agriculture was No. 1 here, now our economy is diversified. We have high-tech industries, heavy manufacturing, light manufacturing, farming, and large agricultural processing operations. The Bear River Association of Governments and Cache Economic Development have done an excellent job of helping existing businesses to expand."

Webb calls Cache County "Utah's best kept secret." "Housing costs are low, and we have a lot of area in which to build," he said. "The quality of life far surpasses anywhere else. This is a gorgeous place to live."

"We have a small-town atmosphere with most big-city services," said Doug Thompson, executive director of the Cache Chamber of Commerce. "I think businesses relocating here would be attracted by three key factors Cache County offers. We have a wonderful lifestyle, outstanding productivity, and the support of the university."

The Best Backyard

Those natural advantages make Cache Valley ideal for snowmobilers and skiers. With more than 1,000 square miles of winter playland, including nearly 300 miles of groomed trails for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, plus Beaver Mountain--a downhill ski area less than 45 minutes east of Logan--midwinter tourism has become a major marketing thrust for the chamber.

"We see the tourism industry as an untapped resource," Thompson said. "We also have excellent summers here. Bicycling is another new tourism initiative for us. Mother Nature has blessed us again."

The golfing, hiking, technical climbing, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, boating, waterskiing, sailboarding, and swimming opportunities are also unlimited in the valley. The unique aquamarine beauty and water-sport opportunities of Bear Lake are less than an hour's drive through Logan Canyon.

Cultural offerings abound in Cache County, as well. In addition to the regional, national, and international music, dance, and theater events the university offers through its performing arts series, USU's Theatre Arts Department has its own repertory company. The Utah State Theatre performs year-round in the fine arts center on campus and in the Old Lyric Theatre downtown during the summer. There is the Unicorn Theatre for children. Musica Reservata, the Cache Chamber Music Society, and the Cache Community Orchestra also have ambitious performance schedules.

The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum on campus, the Alliance for the Varied Arts, a community arts center, and several local galleries provide the community with opportunities to appreciate the fine arts. The Ronald V. Jensen Living Historical Farm in Wellsville provides glimpses of life as it was in the valley on an authentic 1917 Mormon farm. USU sponsors the Festival of the American West on campus each July.

Probably the most exciting arts project underway is the restoration of the 70-year-old Capital Theater in downtown Logan. When the nearly $6 million-dollar restoration has been completed, Cache County will be home to an arts and conference center, said Jonathan Bullen, executive director of the Capital Arts Alliance. "The space is ideal. It seats about 1,300 and has a wonderful ambiance. The arts center will open this fall with the theatre completed by summer 1992. We have the support of key elements of the community," Bullen said.

It is those key elements of the community working in tandem that make economic development and controlled growth a reality in Cache County. But as Hyde Park Mayor Robert Ball's adds, "We are also working in harmony to preserve the existing lifestyle so that Cache County is still a place where you can lean over the fence and talk to your neighbor."

Elizabeth T. Walker is a free-lance writer based in Logan.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Olympus Publishing Co.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Utah's business and industries
Author:Walker, Elizabeth T.
Publication:Utah Business
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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