Spedcial Monday Report
What they are saying about Utah March 6th 2008

New York Times

Mormon conquest


What they are saying about Utah!

Packed Powder as a Corporate Amenity

New York Times - March 5, 2008

OGDEN, Utah - Michael Dowse was talking on the telephone one day in January and watching the snow build up outside the windows of his newly rehabbed office in a 1915 factory complex in this historic railroad town, where his company, Amer Sports Winter and Outdoor Americas, has made its headquarters since last summer.

"We're getting pounded," said a cheerful Mr. Dowse, who is president of the company, a unit of Amer Sports, a Finnish concern with subsidiaries that make skis and snowboards.

"We've got seven or eight inches already." He sounded hopeful for more.

Fresh powder snow has marketing advantages to the company, which recently played host to nearly 100 retailers from across the country to test equipment personally on local slopes, some as close as 20 minutes from the old factory building.

Amer Sports signed a 10-year lease last year for 57,000 square feet, with an option to renew the lease, in the 209,000-square-foot former American Can building. The company moved in with 300 employees last August.

The building is owned by Jon Peddie, a developer based in Steamboat Springs, Colo., who renovated a portion of the complex for Amer Sports. Mr. Peddie would not disclose costs.

Amer Sports is the latest sports-related company to move into Ogden, a former manufacturing town that is emerging from hard times as a center of skiing and other outdoor sports.

Other companies that have relocated here in the last five years include Rossignol, the French ski maker; Scott Sport, a maker of sportswear and bicycles; Goode Ski Technologies; and Nidecker, a Swiss snowboard maker. Kahuna Creatives, another snowboard maker, and Descente North America, a unit of a Japanese ski-wear maker, also have their headquarters in the city.

There were a number of attractions, both natural and financial, that drew Amer Sports to Ogden, a city of 87,000 people 22 miles north of Salt Lake City. A commuter rail line connecting the two cities is scheduled to open next month.

The recreational advantages can be seen on the helicopter rides that Matthew R. Godfrey, the city's boosterish mayor, likes to give to business owners.

There are two separate kayak parks in the city, where two rivers converge. Rock climbing and hang gliding are also available nearby, while extreme sports enthusiasts who want to sample rock climbing in a safe environment can do so in Salomon Center, an enclosed year-round facility. Salomon, an Amer Sports subsidiary that makes winter sports equipment, recently acquired the naming rights to the attraction.

City officials are also studying the possibility of building a gondola to carry skiers directly from downtown Ogden to nearby slopes.

A Los Angeles developer, Gadi Leshem, has proposed three waterfront developments along the Ogden River and has offered to clean up a portion of the waterway.

Subsidies from the state of Utah totaling $7.94 million may have been as instrumental in recruiting Amer Sports as good ski conditions, however. The state provided $2.5 million in an upfront grant to Amer Sports to cover relocation and building improvement costs. In addition, the company can collect up to $5.44 million in the next 10 years in the form of a property tax rebates.

In the end, "the city had the mayor, the mountains and the money," Mr. Dowse said.

The subsidies reflect efforts by state officials to attract makers of sports gear and other industries. "Land economics and the cost of doing business in Utah are very low, and our labor force is young and very well educated," said Jason P. Perry, executive director of the governor's Office of Economic Development.

Ogden's hopes of turning itself into a resort town contrast with the torpor that hung over the city for much of the last 40 years. Ogden had been the state's industrial center, largely because of its location along the original transcontinental railroad line. Many of the prominent buildings and factories in the town date from the first two decades of the 20th century, perhaps the height of the city's prosperity as Utah's industrial and transportation hub.

The growth of the Interstate highway system, however, began to hurt Ogden in the 1950s and '60s. The American Can building closed in 1979, and remained empty until Mr. Peddie started to restore it in 2005.

Mr. Godfrey, who was first elected mayor in 1999, has spent much of his time in office buttonholing business prospects for the city. He approached Amer Sports officials early this decade, but "kind of got the brush off," he recalled.

Mr. Dowse, who grew up in Salt Lake City, was looking for a United States headquarters site for the company, which had operations in Portland, Ore.; Amherst, N.H.; and Carlsbad, Calif. But he acknowledges Ogden was not on the list.

"I had a perception of Ogden as a boarded-up railroad town," he said.

When Mr. Godfrey and state officials persuaded some company officials to visit the city during a swing through the state in 2004, however, a brief meeting turned into a full-day discussion.

The image of the old American Can complex - a group of handsome structures in buff-colored brick with atrium-style factory spaces lined in sash windows and set off by a smokestack that rises 65 feet from the ground - may have persuaded Mr. Dowse.

When Amer Sports officials saw the factory complex, "they just came alive," Mr. Godfrey said. The idea of being part of an effort to salvage an old building, rather than building a new one, was also appealing to a company with a strong environmental ethos, the mayor added.

"Being able to preserve the building was very important to them," he said.

Mr. Dowse concurred. "The building was perfect," he said. His new office space is supported by columns made of heavy square-edged timbers.

Beyond architecture, there are other advantages to working close to the mountains, including a lenient attitude toward winter recreation. When the snowfall reaches 20 inches or so, he said, "we close the doors and tell the staff to go skiing."

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Ogden - Packed Powder as a Corporate Amenity

Mormon Conquest

  • Mormon conquest
  • Financial Times: February 16 2008

    Only a handful of thoroughfares in the US are designated All-American Roads for their scenic qualities - and Highway 12 in southern Utah is one of them. Running east from Bryce Canyon, the road weaves its way through towering red-rock mesas, lazy emerald meadows and yellow-grey slick-rock dotted with lone sprouting pines. You don't have to be a 19th- century Romantic to reach for the word "sublime".

    An hour and a half from Bryce, the road climbs steeply on to the slender Hogsback ridge. In the late afternoon sunlight the landscape is blue-grey - a shimmering expanse of rocky beauty. Then like the cartoon character who overshoots the cliff edge and freezes in mid-air panic, I begin to absorb just how sheer - and how deep - are the drops on either side. Resisting the temptation to close my eyes, I crawl forward. "Life's too short for guard rails" is a favourite Utah joke.

    A few minutes later the road descends into the green oasis of Boulder, which will be home for the next few nights. Unreachable by car until the 1930s, Boulder received its mail by mule-train until 1942. Today, with a population of just 180, it remains one of the most remote locations in the country - so it's a surprise to find a top-notch restaurant lying at its heart.

    At the Hell's Backbone Grill, Blake Spalding and Jen Castle have been applying their own stamp to Pueblo Indian and south-western recipes for the past seven years. Corn and cornmeal; poblano and chipotle chillis; jalapeno peppers; and pinons (a south-western variant of the pine nut) are staple ingredients. Vegetables come from their own organic farm; Boulder's ranchers supply the meat; and fruit comes from heirloom orchards planted by early Mormon settlers.

    Boulder has no cash machines, no mobile phone service and the nearest grocery store is a 40-minute drive away. So how do you make a restaurant hum in the middle of nowhere? It helps if you have a background in extreme catering, as both these women, one of them a Buddhist, do.

    The pair moved to Boulder from Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2000. Both had worked as river chefs on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Spalding had also done a stint for MTV's The Real World television show cooking on a deserted island in the Bahamas and she later catered for parties in the Amazon rainforest. "It takes a lot to rattle me now," she says in A Measure of Grace (Proveco Press), the book that tells their story. "I've seen just about everything that could go wrong in a restaurant - fires, floods, wind and all manner of chaos. Once I had a tug of war with a ringtail cat who was trying to steal a bag of beef."

    When I'd telephoned to book a table, they suggested we eat after 9pm, since earlier on they had a large party (fifty-something men getting in touch with their inner biker) to feed. By the time we entered the high-beamed, blond-wood room, the guys had gone and there was a sense of winding down.

    Among the specials, zuccamole - guacamole made with squash rather than avocado - caught my eye. We paired it with a salad of beetroot, and chose rosehip duck with quinoa ("like couscous but with more protein") and barbecue-grilled pork chops as mains.

    On subsequent nights, I sampled green chilli corn tamales (little parcels of lamb, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed); tomato and cucumber salad; and spicy meatloaf with lemony mash. Desserts, such as their signature chocolate chilli cream pot, proved beyond us, but one night I did manage a white chocolate and brandied apricot fool.

    With its Tibetan prayer flags and a statue of Buddha in the flowerbed, the Grill seems at one with its magnificent setting. But it took time for the women to win acceptance in this staunchly Mormon town. When they first posted a help wanted sign, not a soul applied. What turned things round was their decision to host an ice-cream social on Independence Day. The whole town turned out; it was, as they put it, the beginning of their life in Boulder.

    But they needed a liquor licence - and no restaurant in Boulder had previously been granted the right even to apply for one. Spalding and Castle explained to the town council that if they were to make a go of their business they needed to be able to serve beer and wine - and this proved a novel argument. "No one had ever presented the alcohol permit from a financial perspective before," said one councillor. "That's something we can all understand." Two years down the line, having been checked out by the FBI, they received a licence and now serve wine from California and the Pacific Northwest, and beers from Utah-based Wasatch Brewing Company, including one called Polygamy Porter.

    The restaurant lies within the grounds of Boulder Mountain Lodge. One advantage of staying at this elegant eco-lodge - apart from its 15-acre bird sanctuary, stylish rooms and hot tub - is that you get to eat breakfast as well as dinner in the Grill.

    I've always thought of porridge as grey lumpy stuff to be avoided at all costs. But Spalding and Castle's "dreamy, creamy hot and steamy" oatmeal, served with caramelised apple compote, has converted me. When I asked what went into it, our server laughed: "People think because our food is organic, it must be slimming and healthy!" She declined to say how much butter or cream was used.

    Castle and Spalding are self-taught cooks who started young. "Other kids might go sneak a smoke in the woodshed," says Castle. "I practised deep-fried sopapillas." It's clear that both women cook because they love doing it - and they love the response they get. As Spalding's Tibetan teacher once said to her: "It's good that you are a cook: you make people happy."

    Hell's Backbone Grill, No 20 North Highway 12, Boulder, Utah 84716. Tel: +1 435-335 7464;


    Boulder Mountain Lodge, tel: +1 435-335 7460; www.boulder-utah.com

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