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Recognizing challenges becomes first step to economic development in city

Oct 06, 2017 12:11PM ● Published by Becca Ketelsleger

The grand opening of the West Jordan location of Smith & Edwards could be deemed nothing less than a success. (Becca Ketelsleger/City Journals)

At the Aug. 23 West Jordan City Council meeting, council members reviewed and discussed the status of West Jordan’s economy. 

“With the focus on economic development, staff are in the process of updating the Strategic Plan,” said West Jordan Economic Development Director David Oka. “The first step in this was to identify some of the issues we are facing here in West Jordan.”

The first step in identifying the cities strengths and weaknesses was to bring in Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham (an independent financial advisory and consulting firm) to conduct a study on the city’s economic development and “sales leakage.” 

From a broad perspective, the presentation made at the city council meeting was meant to illustrate what the average person spends on various items (i.e., food and beverage, hardware, sporting goods) and then what percentage of those sales the city is capturing within their borders. These numbers were also compared to previous years to see trends within West Jordan.

“If the average person is buying x amount of hardware every year, and you aren’t selling that much hardware for your population, they may be going somewhere else to do that shopping,” said principal adviser Laura Lewis from Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham. 

While some of the decreases in West Jordan’s ability to capture sales tax (a decrease of 70 percent in sales capture for furniture and home furnishings, and a decrease of 19 percent in sales capture for sporting goods) can be tied directly to the loss of large retailers within the city (RC Wiley and Sports Authority respectively), other sales leakage causes are much more complex. 

For example, while sales capture for motor vehicle and parts dealers has remained fairly consistent (only a 1 percent decrease since 2011), the total amount of leakage for that category sits at the staggering amount of $197,791,097.

What this means is that West Jordan auto sales are below average for the state, and that West Jordan residents  are having to go elsewhere to buy their vehicles. This is not due to a loss of car dealerships within the city but the initial lack of them. 

“We know that due to the ‘rules’ governed by the car dealership association, we have been prohibited from having new car dealerships in our city,” said Oka for clarification. 

Although according to the report, “the average capture rate has declined almost universally across all major categories,” West Jordan officials are still capturing “77 percent of the retail and service sales.” 

All of this information compiled will help to direct the updates to West Jordan’s strategic plan. Five recommendations were made by the consulting firm to also help aid in the process: conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis, host an economic development workshop, review focus areas, prioritize focus areas, and identify immediate and long-term goals. 

Along with these formal recommendations, Lewis had another word of caution. 

“I do think it’s important that you, again not just you up there on the dais, but your constituents need to understand the tools that are available to you,” said Lewis. “If you are only using a hammer and everyone else has the whole toolbox, you are not going to retain as many businesses.” 

One step forward in the right direction came roughly two weeks later, with an attempt to recapture some of the sporting goods sales that have been lost within the city. 

On Sept. 8 a ribbon cutting occurred for a new Smith & Edwards location in West Jordan, with the grand opening following the next day. 

Smith & Edwards has been selling military surplus gear, Western wear and many other items in west Ogden since 1947. This year, it is celebrating its 70th anniversary, which includes the opening of a second location. 

The grand opening of Smith & Edwards West Jordan location featured booths and prize giveaways outside the stores entrance, as well as multiple sales and activities inside. Attendance was high, with families and children enjoying the day’s events and lining up to make their purchases. 

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