Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 41)
This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Ryan Starks, managing director of business services at GOED, and Theresa Foxley, the president and CEO of EDCUtah.
Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.
Ryan Starks: (0:20) Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast. I’m Ryan Starks, managing director of business services at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. I’m really excited about today’s guest, Theresa Foxley, the president and CEO of EDCUtah. Theresa, so great to see you. Thanks for joining us today.
Theresa Foxley: (0:40) Really great to see you too, Ryan, and thank you so much for having me.
Ryan Starks: (0:44) It’s always a pleasure, especially when we can bring back one of our own. One of the first questions I like to ask is just a little bit about yourself. What do you like to do? What’s your background? How long have you lived in Utah?
Theresa Foxley: (0:59) When Ryan says bringing back one of the governor’s own, Ryan and I were both employed by the governor’s office back in 2009. I was taking a leave of absence from the law firm where I was working, and Ryan was helping the office in many respects.
I feel like Ryan and I have kind of grown up in economic development together, which has been really fun. Ryan, you know, I considered you to be a great friend and colleague, but my background is that I’m a Utah native. I grew up here. I love it here. I am passionate about promoting the Beehive state because I want it to continue to be a wonderful place, both for people to live in and find wonderful, fulfilling career opportunities.
I’m married. I’ve got a little boy, and we live in Salt Lake City and love going outdoors together and experiencing some of Utah’s amazing outdoor recreation opportunities. That’s a little bit about me. I practiced law for a few years, but I was really drawn to economic development because of the mission.
I spent some time with the governor’s office and then ended up over here at a partner organization, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
Ryan Starks: (2:13) That’s wonderful. It was a great start for both of us to kind of cut our teeth and understand the many dynamics of economic development in Utah. As you mentioned, you were able to make that transition over to EDCUtah. But before we get into that part, I would love to hear more about your experience at GOED. You were the managing director; you oversaw corporate incentives and recruitment. How was that for you, and how was the transition over to EDCUtah?
Theresa Foxley: (2:43) I loved working at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. I feel so grateful to Governor Herbert and Spencer Eccles and Val Hale for giving me the opportunity to be there. It really opened up my mind to some of the ways in which the government can help catalyze business growth, often by getting out of the way of the private sector, and by helping to coordinate the various state resources, agencies, programs, and operations. So they can really be able to help businesses unlock what they need to be successful in the state of Utah. So, as I said, I’ve always been really compelled by the mission of economic development, which is to help companies and employees and individuals achieve greater levels of opportunity and prosperity. It was a really natural transition to go from the governor’s office to EDCUtah.
I think of it as having had a really broad mission at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to a little bit narrower mission here at EDCUtah, where we really focus on one thing and one thing only, and that’s corporate expansion. EDCUtah’s mission is to catalyze quality jobs and capital investment throughout the state of Utah.
We do that by working in the field of corporate recruitment and expansion, and our core competencies are economic research, business marketing and project management. It has been really fulfilling in my career to be a part of organizations that are really designed to help unlock additional opportunity and prosperity for the people who live here.
Ryan Starks: (4:30) So having such similar missions, I think a lot of our success comes down to our team members. Tell us a little bit about your team there at EDCUtah. How many people do you have, and what are some of their roles?
Theresa Foxley: (4:42) You’re right. The team makes all of this possible. I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful team at EDCUtah. We are roughly divided into two groups within the organization. We have our research and marketing team, and then we have our business development team. Research and marketing help build a business case for why a company might locate or expand in Utah using all sorts of data tools that we have at our disposal.
And then they market them in a way that is in a message that would resonate with a corporate decision-maker. Then our business development team is really responsible for project management. Think of them as almost an account manager for the state of Utah. They’re assigned a specific project.They specialize in certain sectors of the economy. They pull together the public and private sector network that can help that company land and be successful and begin or expand operations in the state. We have people who are early in their career who come into EDCUtah, and we’re so lucky we get talented individuals who are drawn to our mission, and they come and contribute for the early part of their career. Then they go on to professional school or to find other professions that are fulfilling to them.
We have people at EDCUtah who have been here for 15 plus years. And then we have people at EDCUtah who are in what I would call a second act of their career. They’ve been in the private sector, and again, they’re drawn to the mission, they want to give back. They participate with us by being involved in various capacities within the organization. So it’s an amazing team. I love being around them, and they definitely inspire me every day to do the work that we do well.
Ryan Starks: (6:40) It’s wonderful that both of our teams are really complimentary. If there’s a trade mission, for example, or a trade show, if there’s a recruitment event, we do a really nice job of tag-teaming to make sure that we’re rolling out the red carpet for that company that’s considering Utah. Speaking of companies considering Utah, how would you assess Utah’s performance over the past number of years in terms of corporate recruitment and expansion?
Theresa Foxley: (7:06) Well, you know, Ryan, it’s been pretty remarkable to see and to play a role in it. Of course, all of our successes as team Utah are attributable to the team. By that, I mean, you know, the 17 folks that work at EDCUtah, the people that work at GOED. Really the communities that make up the state of Utah, the private businesses that can help companies figure out why we have a better workforce program here.
It’s our university system; it’s our technical colleges. And frankly, it’s just the actual individuals and the people here in Utah who are measurably more productive than their counterparts in other states. That really has led to the phenomenal success that we’ve seen over the years. I would give us high marks for where we’ve been and over the last several years.
You may be sort of interested to learn where we are this year now; we’re about a half of a year into COVID and what impact that has had on business location decisions. As you would imagine, it’s had a pretty significant impact on it. Our pipeline has softened a little bit; it’s smaller than it was in March.
It dropped down by about 30%, and now we’re back up to about 90% of our previous project level. It’s been really interesting that we’re seeing these bigger trends in the economy reflected in our pipeline. We have companies that are very much thinking about how to create additional supply chain resiliency.
We’re seeing that in our pipeline. Most of our projects today, greater than 50% are actually projects that are either making things or moving things. So 51 projects on the book out of 90 are in manufacturing or distribution, which is high for us, both in terms of percentage, and high in absolute numbers.
We had 30 projects that were, that would fit that category prior to two COVID. We’re also seeing, of course, that aren’t making things or moving things about supporting those companies that do professional services types, organizations, financial services, technical, and others there.
They’re trying to understand how to work from anywhere, and what type of long-term impact that will have on their business. That has put some of those location decisions on hold, nevertheless, we still have had a couple of great announcements in this fiscal year and thinking specifically of 1-800Accountant and a few other products that have said, ‘You know what, despite there being a pandemic, we believe in Utah, we want to partner with Utah and we are going to invest in Utah and its people. We’re going to hire and create jobs here’.
We are pretty optimistic about the future of corporate recruitment in the state in Utah. I suspect that we will continue to see a lot of manufacturing projects. I also suspect that as companies have become more comfortable with managing a distributed and remote workforce, that you might see smaller operations that are established in markets like Utah, where companies may not have considered having a site in the state before. Still, we’re a little bit more comfortable with managing a remote workforce. We think we’re pretty well-positioned for that round.
Ryan Starks: (10:48) Yeah. I think that’s a good way of putting it. We’ve received a number of accolades, even just in the past couple of days, still showing that Utah’s economy is performing at all levels.
As you know, our unemployment rate is 4.5%, and despite this downturn in this new economy, I really applaud your efforts in helping to lead the state into an uncertain future. Hopefully, one that continues to see low unemployment rates and new jobs created. You mentioned team Utah, and I really appreciate that. As you know, a team has a lot of different roles. EDCUtah has multiple roles as well, so it’s not just corporate recruiting. During this time of COVID-19, you’ve been asked to lead out in some other efforts. You want to tell us a little bit about that?
Theresa Foxley: (11:39) Thanks for the question, Ryan. We’ve been honored, and I mean that sincerely. It has been an honor to help the state and the governor’s economic COVID-19 economic response efforts.
A couple of things that I would just sort of highlight. We’ve taken some of our historic corporate recruitment capabilities, and we’ve redeployed those on behalf of the state. We have a great research team. On this research team, we helped build some of the personal protective equipment models for the state. We worked closely with the hospital association and others to build PPE models for small businesses in the state. And now, those involved in stick activities, schools, and otherwise. It’s been terrific to be able to do that. We’ve done small business surveys that have helped inform the state’s policies, how the state is spending some of the CARES Act funding and the programs that have been developed, and they drawback to the survey work we’ve been able to do for economic development. It’s a fun job because we know who’s doing what and what assets they have. We were also able to help identify manufacturers in the state that might be able to convert their operations over to make PPE for our medical supply working group. And so it was fun. We had a loaned executive on that program, Stephie Froman, who helped identify and work with manufacturers making tents and skis and wedding gowns to make surgical gowns and face shields and other things.
So that’s been pretty cool. I’ve really liked being able to convene our critical infrastructure group, which is the group of folks that make it when you go to pump gas in your car or stop your cupboards or flip your light switch on. They make all that happen. The industries that are really critical to our economy’s backbone and to convene them understand what issues they are facing, whether it be testing or shortages with trailers and other things to help try and solve problems.
Although challenging, it has been really rewarding. It’s been a really rewarding six months in that respect. And again, I’m so proud of our team who’s just adapted and innovated and raised their hands when the opportunity called to help provide technical support to people who are applying for government programs to making sure that we used our megaphone and our microphone to amplify some of the messages that have been important to the state.
It really has been a very rewarding six months for the team and myself.
Ryan Starks: (14:31) We like to say all hands on deck, and that seems to be the theme over the past six months with EDCUtah and with other organizations like the World Trade Center Utah, Salt Lake Chamber and GOED. It’s been a wild ride, but hopefully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Theresa, thank you for your time today. I did just want to inform our listeners that Theresa’s information about COVID-19 can be found on the state’s website, which is coronavirus.utah.gov.
So Theresa, if somebody wanted to learn more about EDCUtah, where would you point them?
Theresa Foxley: (15:09) We’d love to share more about who we are and what we do and encourage people to look us up online. We are at edcutah.org, and we have some great information and research that’s available to the public.
We’re always happy, once you take a look at that, to walk you through that research and information and do a deeper dive with you on how it might be able to help you as you go out and your business and try and earn new work and expand your customer base. Please do engage with us. We welcome the opportunity and check us out online. You can also go on social media, Twitter and Facebook. We’re easy to find by design EDCUtah.
Ryan Starks: (15:53) Theresa, it’s been wonderful having you join me today. Thank you for your thoughts and your insights and to keep up the great work. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Theresa Foxley: (16:05) Thanks so much, Ryan. Thanks for all that you’re doing on behalf of the state of Utah. You’re making a difference.
Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.