Business growth continues in 2017, from Spanish Fork to Lehi

Daily Herald  |  Best of 2017  | Karissa Neely

Utah County has been a good place to do business for a number of years, and 2017 was no different.

The valley is growing, and this year the area started feeling some of those growing pains. Countywide, that meant frustrations with the speed of construction — both in residential and commercial — transportation and commuting issues, and city governments’ adapting and changing their city zoning with a move away from the county’s agricultural roots to a more urban scene.

As 2017 comes to a close, the Daily Herald looks at the top five trends in the business community this year.

5. Even in a good economy, businesses still close

Utah County witnessed a number of business closures this year, and the reasons they shuttered their doors were as varied as their industries.

For some, it was changes in technology and consumer patterns. As technology improves and online business processes take over some business areas, multi-generational businesses sometimes suffer. Broadbent’s Store in Lehi, The Wash Hut in Provo and Duane’s Auto Wrecking in Orem were all in business locally for decades, but all closed this year.

For others, the bottom line just wasn’t there. Northern Utah County is thriving, with development popping up anywhere there is vacant land, but a surprising number of restaurants — like Zaxby’s, Applebee’s, Sonic Drive-In and the State Street Grill — still closed in those areas this year.

In addition, a number of national chains, like Gordmans and Sears, shuttered their Utah County locations, despite the businesses doing well locally.

4. Businesses still opening
Though the valley sadly said goodbye to a handful of businesses, it said hello to many, many new businesses this year. The variety of businesses coming into the valley is a testament to entrepreneurs’ creativity and our changing society.

From international food markets to travel, new vintage stores to food truck-based eateries parking their wheels, this year witnessed significant new businesses settle in all over the county. No industry was untouched — and some entries, like True North Axe Throwing in Lehi, created an industry that did not exist in the county before.

The northern part of the county seems to also be enjoying an influx of out-of-state restaurants staking their first Utah location near the Point of the Mountain. A number of them — Core Life Eatery in American Fork and Lehi’s Slapfish and Nekter Juice Bar, among others — are targeted to healthier eaters. Interestingly, many of these restaurant owners and managers say they chose the Silicon Slopes area because it has a similar demographic to their non-Utah headquarters.

Of note as well, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain held regular grand openings this year as well — some for smaller restaurants or offices, but others for major retail, like the new Saratoga Springs Smith’s Marketplace.

3. Technology is in everything

Following national trends, a number of businesses launched or made headlines because of their new ways of inserting technology where it wasn’t before. Homie, Neiybor, Truxx and Janiis are just a few players disrupting regular, not-so-high-tech fields with high-tech solutions. These are changing the way we do business, both online and offline.

Other companies are helping our technology be smarter. Sorenson Media and Telegenic are both upgrading the television world, while other businesses are creating software platforms to streamline everything from company perks and expense sheets to career exploration, small business marketing memory storage, even dating.

If you own something that doesn’t feature some sort of internet of things technology yet, just wait. It will.

2. Transportation issues take priority

The business minds behind Silicon Slopes came together in a powerful way early this year, collaborating on a major campaign to convince the Utah Legislature to start work on the commuting issues just south of the Point of the Mountain. Referred to locally as the Lehi Technology Corridor, this area of freeway narrows down from six lanes in both directions north of Timpanogos Highway to four lanes in both directions at State Route 92 until just south of Lehi Main Street, where it opens back up to six lanes. The Utah Department of Transportation approved accelerated funding this year for the corridor, with construction set to begin next year instead of in 2020.

Additionally, Envision Utah and the Point of the Mountain Development Commission are in an ongoing process to create a growth vision for the area surrounding the Point of the Mountain. If plans continue as recently outlined, Utah County could actually have a TRAX light-rail line running over the Point of the Mountain into Lehi and American Fork, additional FrontRunner train lines and stations, and more public transit options throughout the county.

1. County continues to grow

Utah County growth is projected to catch up to Salt Lake County, reaching 1.6 million residents by 2065, and 2017 continued to add to those numbers. The Utah County housing industry is running almost nonstop, with new homes, subdivisions and multi-tenant housing options going vertical every day.

This growth is significantly spurred by the economic growth within the county. The northern part of the county continues to be the epicenter of office and commercial development, with major developments like Lone Peak Plaza in Lehi, and company expansions — Adobe announced one and IM Flash completed one — adding millions of square feet in office and work space.

Multiple businesses moved into new headquarters or broke ground in or around Lehi this year, including Podium, Entrata, Pointe Meadows Health and Rehabilitation and the nonprofit organization and business connector Silicon Slopes. American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon and surrounding areas also are growth places as well, with the Valley Grove development continuing on the east side of the Pleasant Grove Boulevard freeway interchange, doTerra’s expansion plans straddling both sides, and Jive’s new headquarters headed for the west side of the freeway there.

Even slightly more significant though, 2017 was the year that the southern part of the county got to be in on the development fun. Spanish Fork’s Canyon Creek development is a major economic boost to southern cities and is changing what were once just empty fields. The November Wavetronix announcement about moving its headquarters to Springville heralds more industrial, office and commercial development to come to the south.