Cottonwood Heights is a full-service community with a great deal of potential. Many reasons draw businesses, residents and visitors to Utah’s newest city. Cottonwood Heights has created an environment in which business can thrive, that has an exceptional quality of life and has a clear vision for the future. All of this is tied together by the pristine natural beauty and convenience of the location.
Cottonwood Heights is nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountain Range, at the gateway to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. The city offers breathtaking vistas and a variety of outdoor activities such as golf, biking, skiing and hiking that tremendously contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by both visitors and its population of over 34,000. The location is just one of the city’s many assets that foster and support the development of a vibrant community and strong economy.
In the early 2000s, citizens of the city wanted more input and control over how the community was being run and, at that point, identified incorporation as a means to fully maximize the city’s assets. In 2004, a vote was held, and on January 14, 2005, Cottonwood Heights was incorporated, officially becoming Utah’s newest city. The community’s history dates back to the 1860s when the area served as a source for raw materials for homebuilders, the railroad and the Salt Lake LDS Temple.
Cottonwood Heights originated as the settlements of Union and Butlerville. The area grew over time, and post-World War II, the demand for housing initiated development in an otherwise rural area. In the early 1950s, the first subdivisions in the area were built, and population expansion continued over the next several decades.
Now, the city has embarked on its modern legacy. As the newest city in the Salt Lake Valley, Cottonwood Heights’ leadership had the unique opportunity to adopt a fresh approach to how the city operates and has produced exceptional results.
Cottonwood Heights has secured for itself one of the biggest advantages of all: a pro-business mayor and council that have dedicated the resources and support to realize the city’s vision of establishing itself as a wonderful place to live, work and invest. In doing so, it has redefined what is possible at the local level.
Since incorporation, the city has created a new police force, fire services and business centers. Additionally, the city has completed an urban trail system, connecting it with neighboring trails across the valley. Though it remains the only city in Utah without its own standalone city hall, efforts have been made in this regard.
In March, 2014, Cottonwood Heights Council announced plans to build its first city hall. The building will serve as a gathering place while improving the city’s capacity to serve its residents and local businesses. A new city hall will provide the space and the visibility the city needs to take the community to the next level.
Though eighty-five percent built out, Cottonwood Heights has room to grow. The city is located near the freeway system, the Salt Lake downtown area and the airport, as well as the beauty and recreational opportunities of Utah’s rich natural surroundings.
Cottonwood Heights is open for business and has taken considerable efforts to create an environment in which business and the community at large can thrive. The city’s mission is, “to create a vibrant, thriving professional environment that supports community values and goals.” Crucial to executing this mission are dedicating resources and offering programs and support.
“We’ve got some really big businesses here,” stated Peri Kinder, business development and licensing professional. “We’ve been attracting a lot of tech companies in the last four to five years, and we’ve really had a growing niche in that area.” She cites notable city employers Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, MasterControl, Fusion-IO, Instructure and a new company called SoFi from San Francisco.
Kinder says that the strength of the local economy comes from its entrepreneurial spirit. “We have about 1500 businesses in the city, and more than half of those are home-based businesses – entrepreneurs starting their own companies. There is a really strong sense that this is an incubator community where people come with their ideas and it grows.” Overstock.com originated here and experienced enormous success, growing out of its original space into something larger.
Cottonwood Heights has a relatively small population with some very big assets. Brian Berndt, community and economic development director with the city of Cottonwood Heights, noted that second to Salt Lake City, Cottonwood Heights is a leader in Class A office square footage with just under three million square feet, which is a significant amount of Class A office space for a community of its size.
The city benefits from a relationship with Economic Development Corporation of Utah, an organization that works both nationally and internationally to attract business and encourage relocation to the area.
“As a part of that partnership, we have set up different sites for businesses to consider. We have an expedited plan review and process to get companies up and running as fast as possible, and we also give them a high level of predictability in the process of constructing, getting permits and so forth,” Berndt said.
When incorporating, Cottonwood Heights chose to take a different approach to supporting business, one that was contrary to the typical chamber of commerce model. “Our mayor decided that he didn’t want to have a chamber. He wanted to have an association dedicated to all businesses. It’s a free service that we offer to every business owner in the city,” noted Kinder.
“We do luncheons. We do educational seminars. We partner with other companies in the valley, and we really create a one-stop location for businesses to contact the city with any concerns, any advice, anything that can make our business community stronger.” Cottonwood Heights offers events at little to no cost to business owners to benefit from this strong feedback.
Business-specific events held by the city include business expositions, luncheons, Business Boot Camp educational training (held three times annually), Recreational Lifestyle Expo (a new event with a recreational focus), Restaurant Tour (new this year to promote local restaurants and eateries) and High School Shark Tank as well as other workshops and services. Cottonwood Heights provides businesses with what Berndt referred to as, “concierge business services.”
“One of the main priorities of city council is that we are there for the businesses, making sure that they know that we appreciate them locating here,” said Berndt. “And we are going to make sure that there are no obstacles that they will have to contend with.”
Berndt credits Peri with being, “exceptional at what she does. She does so much for the businesses. They have everything they need. They are represented with city council. The training is always up to date. There are just so many benefits through that association.”
In line with regional trends to focus on long-term planning, Cottonwood Heights is making every effort to take advantage of available funding programs that support progressive business development, rezoning and other incentives that will support and maintain its growth.
“What we are doing is providing an option for property owners to take and redevelop, like for example, Fort Union Corridor. There are a number of properties that are just single family homes and it’s become a less than desirable place to live, so we’re giving them options to change that to a new office, business, restaurant – to have multifamily, mixed-use in there,” Berndt explained.
“What we are doing is we are going out and doing some road improvements, landscaping, tree lining, street lighting, street furniture, those kinds of public improvements in hopes of bringing people into the mix of discussing and maybe starting to redevelop the area.” These types of improvements are ongoing.
Cottonwood Heights serves as a gateway to some of the most popular recreational areas in the west, and as “The City between the Canyons” it is promoting its location, its parks, safe neighborhoods and its services and amenities as such.
There is no shortage of things to do in Cottonwood Heights including cultural, historical and family-friendly activities and outdoor recreation. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy Butlerville Days, a celebration attended by upwards of 18,000 people that pays homage to the city’s history, Bark in the Park, Golf Tournaments, Food Truck Month, Easter Egg Hunt and Monster Mash on Ice among many other events.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Berndt concluded. “That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on, is that we can offer not only a great business location, but you can live in the same community that your business is located, and you can recreate there as well. So it does offer just about everything that you need.”
It’s no wonder Cottonwood Heights was recognized as one of the top hundred cities in the U.S. by Money Magazine shortly after incorporation. The city offers a unique value proposition as it adopts new business philosophies and different attraction and retention strategies that address the needs of local businesses and the community.
Cottonwood Heights is on a trajectory with outstanding potential. With a forward-thinking mayor and council, a business friendly environment and a community that rallies around and supports growth and development, Cottonwood Heights is capitalizing on the multitude of reasons that make it a location of choice and a community model worth replicating.