Business leaders celebrate economic growth in southern Utah

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-17 00:03:35-05

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Hundreds of business leaders gathered in St. George Thursday to discuss the economic future of southern Utah.

Economists said southern Utah is leading the way in many ways and is officially out of the recession.

Economic development directors said unemployment is back to pre-recession levels and building permits are up 50 percent year after year, both of those are signs of healthy economic recovery.

“There’s so much going on and this event is a celebration of our return from the great recession,” said Site Select Plus executive director Scott Hirschi. “And we have returned with a vengeance.”

Local business leaders gathered at the “What’s up Down South” business summit to talk about how to carry that growth another year. The growth reflects a national trend; across the country, unemployment dropped to 7 percent in December, a sign that employers are investing in the communities by hiring employees.

“All indicators are at levels that are sustainable, are healthy, and manageable,” Hirschi said. “That’s what’s important.”

The summit business leaders talk about the growth, but it can be seen through various developments going in throughout town. Near River Road and 1450 South, crews are beginning work on Boulder Creek Crossing. It’s a commercial project that will provide several new office buildings and a new grocery store.

“If we can get businesses to look at Utah, the state sells itself,” State Senator Steve Urquhart said. “People quickly become sold on the people and the place.”

That’s what brought engineering company Helidyne to southern Utah. The owners are originally from the area. They settled in Washington County to manufacture their natural gas expanders for distribution.

“We love the area, we love the people, and we’re glad to be here,” Mechanical Engineer Andy Kerlin said. “There needs to be more engineering firms and technology companies in St. George. We’re glad to be part of it.”