OGDEN — While the greater Ogden area might not be Utah County’s Silicon Slopes, recruiting tech companies and the typically high-paying jobs that follow has been a focus of several governments along the northern Wasatch Front, including Ogden City.
And a new report for suggests that the area’s outdoor recreation scene might help in the effort.
Utah Outdoor Partners, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute recently released a survey of Utah tech industry employees, which suggests that quality access to wilderness could play a key role in keeping and recruiting tech businesses in the state.
Tony Young, media relations manager with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, said Utah’s outdoor recreation offerings have long been used as a recruitment tool for marketing the state as a place where companies should do business, but noted that wilderness perks might entice the tech industry even more. Young said Utah’s tech sector is the fastest-growing industry in the state and features well-paying jobs that “encourage a flexible work-life balance,” which for many means getting outdoors.
The UOP and Gardner survey quizzed about 255 respondents, representing 141 different tech companies now doing business across the state. Of Utah natives working in the tech industry that left the Beehive State and then and moved back, the report says 82% of them said outdoor recreation and access to wilderness and public lands was the most important factor in moving back. When considering coming back to Utah, respondents said the wilderness siren ranked higher than things like family (76%), career opportunities (76%) and cost of living (61%).
About 38% of the tech employees who participated in the study said they’ve been offered higher salaries to work in other states. Of those, 85% said outdoor recreation and access to wilderness and public lands was their most important factor in choosing to stay. Nearly 60% of the survey respondents said they utilize Utah’s outdoor opportunities at least once a week.
“The amazing access to outdoor recreation and public lands in Utah are key factors to the economic growth of the state,” said Pitt Grewe, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation. “This report shows that people working across different sectors appreciate the quality of life that Utah outdoor spaces provide. Foosball tables and sleep pods are a cool perk inside an office environment, but not as important as what’s outside the office.”
According to GOEO, about 75% of Utah is made up of public lands.
Ogden City, especially under Mayor Mike Caldwell’s tenure, has targeted the outdoor industry as a way to help drive the economy. Caldwell was a founding member of the Get Out and Live Foundation, which organizes and host a variety of outdoor events including the Ogden Marathon, before he became mayor in 2012. More recently, the city has also targeted the tech industry. Within the last two years, tech companies like the San Francisco-based Eden Technologies and Australia-based KordUSA have opened large headquarters offices in Ogden. Northrop Grumman, the global aerospace and defense technology company, has also expanded operations in Weber County during that time frame.
According to Ogden’s Business Development Office, there are nearly 6,000 technology and software jobs in the city, with an average annual wage of $64,403.