Located three hours south of Salt Lake City and just two and a half hours north of Las Vegas, Cedar City, Utah is proving to be a beacon of growth and development. Cedar City is the largest city in Iron County and serves as a regional commercial center to surrounding rural communities in southern Utah and eastern Nevada.
Located near Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar City has unbridled access to nature and recreation as well as a number of amenities, events and activities that make it unique.
“As residents here, it is such a huge part of our lifestyle to be able to enjoy clean air and live within a short drive from all of these amazing places,” shares Economic Development Director Danny Stewart. Cedar City’s natural location is a real asset for residents, businesses and tourists alike. As a community, Cedar City shows great promise, a small town atmosphere with an active population and a commitment to development.
Cedar City enjoys a high quality of life, a number of amenities, a low cost of living (11.6 percent lower than the U.S. average), low unemployment and good property values. It boasts a strong workforce and employment base (with 91.4 percent of persons aged 25 and up holding a high school diploma and 30.9 percent of people aged 25 and up with a Bachelor’s degree or higher), drawing from a wide geographic radius to create a family-oriented community that supports active lifestyles.
A number of community organizations are working together to support economic development in Cedar City. Southern Utah University and the Southwest Applied Techonogy College provide numerous educational and economic opportunities, an active chamber of commerce supports local businesses, and a thriving industrial and manufacturing community brings stability and diversity to Cedar City’s economy.
There are many arts and cultural offerings to ensure the community is vibrant and meets a diverse cross-section of interests. As well, Cedar City is home to Valley View Medical Center, a five-star rated hospital by Cleverley and Associates and a Top 100 Hospital rated by Truven Health Analytics.
“For a smaller community we have a lot of excellent resources that are dedicated to economic development here,” explains Stewart. As of 2014, Cedar City’s population was just over 29,000, a marked increase of 36.68 percent since 2000. Stewart credits Cedar City’s location and amenities as the driver behind its ability to be a small but growing community.
Cedar City was settled in late 1851 by Mormon Pioneers who were sent to establish an iron works for the region. Vast deposits of iron ore just west of the city, as well as coal in nearby Cedar Canyon made this an ideal location for iron production. The original iron works closed in 1858, but iron mining boomed through World War II and continued into the 1980s. At that time, the primary industry in Cedar City, behind education, was iron mining and the city did an excellent job of supplying steel manufacturers in Utah and around the country. When steel production in Utah ended, the mines were closed and the community’s economy was devastated.
The Cedar City Office of Economic Development was initiated largely as a response to the mine closure. Given the goal of diversifying the economy, so that the community would not rely solely on one industry for its wellbeing, Cedar City has worked to attract and retain a number of businesses to keep it economically and socially healthy.
The Cedar City Iron County Office of Economic Development works to promote Cedar City, as well as the entire county. Together with other organizations such as the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Workforce Services, Southern Utah University, and other local and statewide organizations, the office of economic development works to achieve favorable results, helping to minimize the misconceptions about the city’s small size and capacities.
For a small town, Cedar City has great growth potential and the necessary infrastructure to facilitate and sustain this growth. It has prime, valuable land available that is already zoned for industrial and manufacturing use. The city has planned for growth by building significant infrastructure as laid out in its master plan. This includes rail service, access to trucking routes and the Cedar City Regional Airport.
“Right now, one important thing we are looking at is that we work to help the existing businesses that are here – to provide resources for them to continue to be successful and to expand,” says Stewart. “Additionally, we’re focusing a lot of effort to promote our area as an ideal location for other businesses to consider for expansion or relocation.”
Labeled “a convergence of commerce”, Port 15 Utah is Cedar City’s rail serviced business park that services markets to the west. The park has 540 acres and has high-volume industrial utilities including access to fiber optics, gas, water and electricity (with a sub-station on site). The business park is shovel ready and, when paired with the city’s fast track permitting, companies can be up and running in no time. The rail also serves as a means for local manufacturers to bring in raw materials and ship out finished products.
Cedar City has ready access to a number of markets, as Stewart explains. “We have I-15, which is just minutes from our industrial areas, and then we’re within a day’s drive of all of the major markets in the west. You can easily get from Cedar City to L.A. to Denver to Boise. They are all within a 500 mile radius of Cedar City.” In addition, the city can draw on I-70 which is just north of the city and provides east/west accessibility.
Both the state of Utah and Cedar City offer a number of incentives for businesses that show an interest in relocating to the city. Post-performance local tax incentives can be available to businesses that qualify. The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) can also provide impressive incentives to eligible businesses. In addition to TIF incentives, Cedar City also works with the Southwest Applied Technology College to create Custom-Fit training programs, and also with Southern Utah University to develop educational opportunities. Two companies that have recently contributed to the economic and social wellbeing of Cedar City are GAF and MSC Aerospace.
GAF is the largest manufacturer of roofing materials in North America and it has brought a number of skilled and high-paying employment opportunities to Cedar City. GAF moved into a vacant building just west of Cedar City and has invested around $40 million into this project, creating 50 new jobs.
MSC Aerospace grew from a local company that has been doing metal fabrication for over 25 years. As Metalcraft Technologies, it has built precision parts for the aerospace industry, for both private and military customers. The company acquired Syberjet Aircraft and recently announced that it will be expanding operations in Cedar City, which will result in more than 1,000 high-skilled, high-paying jobs over the next fifteen years. Syberjet Aircraft builds the world’s fastest and longest range light business jet – the SJ30.
Similarly, Iron County and Cedar City are experiencing significant growth and success of solar driven projects. With over three hundred days of sun and sitting at an altitude of over 5,000 feet, the region provides ideal conditions for solar development. The solar industry is showing much promise in the region since several solar companies were able to establish power purchasing agreements with PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power last year.
Three companies have announced more than a dozen projects to begin this year, which will have a number of positive impacts on the local economy. Scatec Solar has begun construction on an 80 megawatt site at the Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park for a capital investment of over $140 million. The project will add 350 to 400 hundred construction jobs over the next eighteen months. Additionally, SunEdison will build six 3 MW sites with a capital investment of $40 million and First Wind has plans to build three 3 MW sites as well as an 80 MW site, for a total capital investment of $168 million. These companies are all working on even more sites to be completed in Iron County before the end of 2016.
Both Southern Utah University (SUU) and Southwest Applied Technology College (SWATC) have collaborated with local businesses and manufacturers to create custom-fit programs to offer training that will meet the needs of existing and incoming companies in terms of skilled workforce requirements. Last fall, SWATC began construction on its new $19 million campus, which will offer even more professional training opportunieis in the region.
Tourism is another aspect of Cedar City’s economy that continues to grow, in part through community involvement and support. Cedar City has been dubbed “Festival City USA,” as it is home to a number of significant festivals. The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a Tony Award-winning festival that has thrived in the community for over fifty years. The Utah Summer Games is an annual, month-long Olympic-style amateur sporting event, now in its thirtieth year. Cedar City is also host to the Groovefest American Music and Art Festival, the Cedar City Livestock & Heritage Festival and the Neil Simon Festival, as well as dozens of other top-notch festivals and events.
Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival began in the early 1960s to provide culture and entertainment for the tourists who came to see the national parks during the day. Now, the Festival is its own destination, and a $35 million Shakespeare and art center is under construction between SUU and the historic downtown. The new Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts will open in 2016 as home to the Shakespeare Festival and the new Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA).
The city is currently updating its strategic plan to continue to support economic and cultural development in the community. The plan aims to sustain and grow existing businesses and recruit additional businesses that will improve its manufacturing base and retail options. The city is committed to protecting and improving its historic downtown, helping to maintain Cedar City’s character and improving the visual appeal of the civic core.
“People really do take advantage of all the variety of assets that we have, and they work together to nurture these things. That’s really refreshing here.” Stewart refers to the spirit of community and the culture of volunteerism that has organically developed in Cedar City. Cedar City will continue to work to develop cooperation and coordination among local, regional and state leaders to ensure its benefits are maximized.