Fewer businesses closing indicates improving local economy, city official says

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Dave Snider, Sandy's economic development manager, stands in front of a storefront in the process of getting organized for its opening in about a month. The business is called Ox and Marley, 39070 Pioneer Blvd., and will offer vintage furniture and home accessories.Dave Snider is on a mission, but the going is tough — almost like swimming upstream.

Snider, the city’s economic development manager, is charged with the goal of filling all of the empty storefronts in Sandy.

Establishing new businesses, he says, makes a difference because a city with empty stores feels like a dying town to anyone looking to start a business there, and that defeats economic development.

Part of his “upstream swim” is about the overall economy, which makes it difficult to start a business when the economy is on a downturn.

“In the last five years,” he said, “it has been a tough economy. But with what I have seen in the last six months, things are starting to turn around a little bit.”

Over the past few years, he said, the number of businesses closing has been about the same as the number opening — between 15 and 25 in any given year.

“This year,” he said, “we’re starting to see a pretty good disparity between those numbers. We haven’t seen as many close down this year.”

Snider has been going on recruiting missions, but over the past six months, he said, some new businesses have been coming to him.

During the past two months, Snider said, he has talked with five potential business owners who are in varying stages of finding a location or opening a new business.

“That’s very encouraging,” he said.

During the first 18 months of his career with the city of Sandy, Snider admits focusing on gaining new businesses. But now he says the time is better to reach out and recruit specific types of businesses the city does not already have.

That is a more difficult task, Snider said, than just finding a new business owner and encouraging that person to establish in an empty store.

There seems to be a hesitation among large businesses, especially those that would have to invest and build from the ground up instead of moving into an existing building.

One business that has long been needed and sought is a destination hotel, but to date the city has had no luck locating one willing to build. Other businesses the city needs include a store offering high-quality clothing and another with new furniture.

To seek new businesses of specific types, Snider says he and some city councilors are going to attend business conventions and talk with business owners and CEOs to promote Sandy.

“The biggest selling point (for business relocation) in Sandy is the fiber project,” Snider said. “I think that’s why we haven’t really done anything yet. We’re waiting to see how that shakes out.

“That’s going to be quite possibly the biggest economic development project the city has ever taken on. We would have the capacity to offer something that not too many communities have the chance to offer.”

Snider hopes the combination of a wide bandwidth, extremely fast Internet speed, a reasonable price for Internet cable service and the small-town environment will be a combination that CEOs can’t refuse.

Officials from a company proposing to distribute fiber-optic cable to every home and business in Sandy will be in town Thursday, Aug. 1, to work out the final details of the project.

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