Aerospace Industry Rides High In Utah

Aerospace Industry Rides High In Utah

State cluster program helps industry pool resources.

Situated at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Ogden, Utah, is known more for its ski resorts than as a manufacturing base. But Ogden also is located in a state with a thriving aerospace and defense industry and an economic development plan that makes the city -- located in what's known as the Wasatch Front region -- an attractive place for Barnes Aerospace to expand its operations.

The business unit of Barnes Group Inc. announced the move in June and expects to complete construction of the 120,000-square-foot facility by early 2008. The plant will be nearly double the size of its existing facility, also located in Ogden. Barnes Aerospace's operating unit fabricates and assembles high-temperature metals used in aircraft engine and airframe applications. The company cites Utah's "industry clusters" as one reason for expanding in Ogden.

Utah is one of several states that has adopted the concept of forming collaborative groups represented by key industries to foster business growth. The state has a total of seven such clusters, including those in the life sciences, aerospace and defense, and homeland security industries. Under the cluster program, the state promotes conferences and activities that bring people from similar industries together. Clusters also provide businesses with access to suppliers, skilled labor, research and development resources and industry experts.

A fighter jet from the Hill Air Force base near Ogden, Utah.
"The whole idea is that as you collaborate, you will be able to sustain some economic advantage and promote some strengths in industry that alone you couldn't do but together you can," says Paul Olsen, public relations manager for the Utah Manufacturing Extension Partnership. For instance, a science technology symposium led to the formation of an association that comprises approximately 30 companies, notes Olsen.

Barnes Aerospace also referred to Utah's highly skilled workforce as another motive for expanding in Ogden. The Wasatch Front region is home to two major universities -- the University of Utah and Weber State University -- and several technical schools. Ogden is also located near the Hill Air Force base, which employs more than 23,000 people, including 13,000 civilians and nearly 4,000 contractors, according to Utah's Office of Economic Development.

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