Government officials from both agencies seem to agree that future economic development of both Morgan City and Morgan County is best trusted in Matthew Godfrey’s hands.
Morgan City hired Godfrey—former Ogden mayor and now with Better City—as a consultant over a year ago to help locate a hotel in city limits, and Morgan County recently hired him as their own economic development consultant.
“This area is completely underutilized,” Godfrey told the Morgan County Council. “People don’t view this as being the recreational mecca it already is.”
Morgan County Councilman Lyle Nelson said the county went through an “extensive procedure” before choosing Better City. According to the agreement between Better City and Morgan County, Godfrey’s company can earn up to $3,500 per month based on performance. The county plans to pull the funds from transient room taxes.
“Better City was selected because of their strong understanding of local government. Better City is an organization that had great contacts in the business community, a great track record, great connections with the State of Utah, and is also greatly connected with Morgan City,” Nelson said. “With the synergy that could happen from all of those, we are really excited to bring Matthew and his crew on board.”
Godfrey has already finished a “fairly comprehensive” inventory of real estate in the county including zoning, parcels and land that is currently for sale on the market. He said the county’s zoning is a majority of residential and agricultural. “There is not enough land zoned to create high-wage jobs that pay livable wages,” he said.
Industrial and manufacturing zones are more likely to bring in high-paying jobs, he said. The county lacks not only a lot of land zoned such, but also infrastructure such as roads and utilities coming to those zones.
“We need more industrial space, and most of it is built out as storage sheds,” Godfrey said. “If storage sheds use up all the land that can create jobs, we are in trouble and zoning issues need to be addressed.”
Godfrey said he will not be searching for a company employing 500 to come to Morgan, but rather those companies with a few dozen employees on an industrial site.
According to a document prepared by Godfrey but not yet available to the public, forestry, fishing and hunting seem to be top draws to the county.
“We need to help people become aware of what is available in Morgan,” Godfrey said. “We want to get it in front of people aggressively.”
Godfrey said he considers Morgan County properties similar to Wasatch Front properties.
“The proximity is no different. But when we show them industrial ground with mountains in the background, five miles away from a world-class ski resort, that is what we can sell. We can sell a lifestyle” that may appeal, for example, to a CEO that cares more about the slopes than land prices, he said.
Morgan County Councilman Austin Turner pointed out Morgan’s benefits compared to the Ogden area.
“I don’t fancy myself part of the Wasatch Front because in the winter, when you guys are all doom and gloom (in the inversion), come up here and visit,” Turner said. “It’s blue skies, baby.”
Councilman Ned Mecham said that during the summer, Morgan temperatures are much milder than those on the Wasatch Front.
Godrey said getting portions of the Weber River through the county designated as a blue ribbon fishery would improve economic development in the area. He said spawning and access issues still stand in the way of getting that designation.
“Once we gain that status, the word will get out,” Godfrey said. “The economic impact on the community can be substantial.”
Godfrey plans to attend monthly meetings with the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a group that actively recruits companies to the state. “At that monthly event, we hear about the deal flow,” Godfrey said. “We will make them aware of what properties exist in Morgan County.”
Godfrey also wants to identify which residents are leaving the county for employment and what their particular skill sets are.
“You are exporting skill sets to other areas,” he said. “It is a competitive advantage to co-locate next to their home. It becomes a matching game.”
Another plan of attack is to help in-home businesses migrate out into the community through matching successful small businesses with capital, Godfrey said.
“We want to create more breadth on the entrepreneurial area in the county, help existing entrepreneurs get to the next level,” he said. “We need to help put them in front of the right people to get capital and help them grow.”
Godfrey said he doesn’t foresee a conflict of interest when dealing with both the city and county.
“If we get to the point we have two clients going for the same company, we will try to be completely transparent about it,” Godfrey said “We will present selling points for both communities and then let the customer decide.”
Turner asked Godfrey to consider the impact cabins could have on local economic development.
“Tourists staying in cabins will shop at the local grocery store,” he said.
Godfrey said he plans on reporting to the county council at least twice a year to update them on economic development efforts.
“They key to economic development is consistency, developing a strategy everyone feels good about and keeping at it,” he said. “Don’t every stop with economic development.”