Utah sees growth in tech jobs
Jobs • Manufacturing, aerospace companies plan to expand, invest in Beehive State.
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Utah's aerospace and high-tech manufacturing industry is poised for some significant growth.

Three of the leading companies that operate in that sector of the state's economy — Hexcel Corp., L-3 Communications and Futura Industries — are either considering or preparing to launch major expansions of their Utah operations that combined could see those corporations investing nearly $700 million in the coming decade and creating more than 1,200 jobs.

Hexcel Corp. is contemplating investing as much as $650 million in its West Valley City operations over the next 10 years. If that investment is completed in its entirety, it could result in more than 600 new jobs, which would double the number of its Utah employees.

At a meeting Thursday of the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) board, Hexcel official Brett Schneider signaled that his company was accepting a $7.7 million tax incentive from the state, which GOED awarded based on the company hiring more than 600 employees over a 10-year period in conjunction with a projected $650 million expansion.

But later in the day in an interview with The Tribune, spokesman Michael Bacal, speaking from Hexcel's base in Stamford, Conn., said the investment had not yet been approved by its board of directors.

"They haven't authorized any such investment," he said, adding that if such an expansion were to take place it would occur in several increments over a period of years. "A lot is going to depend upon whether the demand is there from our customers."

Hexcel is one of the world's largest producers of carbon fiber that is used to create high-strength, low-weight composite components used in everything from recreational products to high-end sports cars and commercial and military jets.

The company's facility in West Valley City is one of Hexcel's largest operations.

The planned expansion is in addition to the two new production lines that Hexcel unveiled in early November that are expected to result in the addition of approximately 50 jobs in coming months.

Schneider said Hexcel's growth in Utah is in part being driven by the A-350, a long-range, wide-body jetliner that is under development by Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer. The fuselage and wing structures of the plane will primarily be made of carbon-fiber composite materials.

Thursday's announcements by Hexcel, L-3 and Futura signal that businesses across the country recognize "the strength of our economy and our business-friendly environment," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. "All three of these companies could have expanded their operations anywhere, but they chose Utah."

L-3 Communications, which already employs some 4,000 Utahns at its Communications Systems West division in Salt Lake City, expects to invest $5.6 million to $6.1 million in an expansion program that will begin next year and result in the hiring of 500 employees over the next decade.

The company's division in Utah provides network engineering, software integration, hardware manufacturing and test support services for the military/defense market.

"L-3's longtime presence in the military communications field and the Utah defense and aerospace industry has been key to that sector's growth [in the state]," said Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah.

On Thursday the GOED board approved a $5.5 million tax incentive package for L-3.

Futura Industries, a Clearfield-based company that turns raw aluminium into extruded parts for a variety of industries, said it is preparing early next year to launch a two-phase $23 million expansion of its aluminium production lines.

"We've experienced tremendous growth in the past four years," said President Sue Johnson. "We're at a critical juncture where expansion of our operating facilities is imperative."

Johnson said the expansion over the next eight years could add more than 140 jobs to the company's existing workforce of 250 employees.

The GOED board on Thursday approved a tax credit of $1.7 million for Futura over the eight-year life of the project.

"Over the past few years, northern Utah has created a critical mass of high-tech manufacturing firms, and Futura Industries has been a partner in that effort," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of GOED.

steve@sltrib.com

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