Leveraging City Strengths with a New EDSP; Orem Utah

The Challenge

The City of Orem is a thriving and economically significant municipality right in the middle of Utah County. It has a reputation as a great place to live and do business, serves as a local retail hub, and holds great appeal as a family-friendly community. These many positive attributes have allowed it to thrive as an attractive place to live and work for generations.
The City’s economic growth and resilience have not gone unnoticed. For instance, it earned the top spot for economic performance among large cities in the 2021 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index. To bolster its economic development, the City embarked on a comprehensive update of its 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan (EDSP). This endeavor aimed to explore the current economic conditions, identify development opportunities, and set the stage for a vibrant future.

That EDSP was quite successful, but due to changes in conditions over the last few years, it became necessary for the city to revisit and revise the plan. As a result, the City put out a Request for Proposals to secure a partner who could take on this project and deliver an informed, actionable report.

TPMA was honored to be selected by the City for this project.

About the Client

Orem, Utah, located approximately 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, is the fifth-largest municipality in the state. As of 2020, it had a population of just over 100,000 residents. This city has earned recognition for its safety, along with opportunities for entrepreneurship and start-ups, particularly in the technology sector. With a vibrant business environment and a reputation as a retail hub, Orem is a city on the rise.
In December 2014, the City of Orem adopted its Economic Development Strategic Plan (EDSP), an important document designed to identify the city’s strengths and weaknesses, establish goals and objectives, and define development strategies. While the EDSP proved valuable for seven years, changes in the economic landscape have necessitated a thorough analysis and an update. Some of those changes included the growth of e-commerce, the transformation of retail spaces due to online shopping trends, and significant infrastructure developments such as the Utah Valley Express (UVX) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

The UVX BRT line, which opened in 2019, connects the Orem FrontRunner bus station with several key locations. The growth of various business districts, including the University Place Community Development Area, the Five State Street Districts, and the Canyon Park Tech Center, has further necessitated a reevaluation of the City’s economic development strategy.

TPMA led the creation of a new, detailed economic development strategy to leverage the many strengths of the City to benefit existing citizens and draw new residents and businesses to take a renewed look at the area.

How TPMA Helped

The project’s scope included researching and analyzing the existing EDSP to create 5, 7, and 10-year development plans with detailed strategies and goals. The plan was to emphasize measurable objectives and actionable steps for implementation. The comprehensive update involved various components, including kick-off meetings, stakeholder focus groups, the creation of a draft EDSP, and an action plan. Collaboration, both within the City and with external partners, was key to the success of the project.

The completed TPMA report highlighted four areas of focus for the City, along with a timeline for the work to be done in those areas, and specific action items to move forward.

1 – Business Retention and Expansion

The City’s objectives for business retention and expansion are reflected in the strategies outlined in the EDSP update. These include improving the small business culture, engaging elected officials in business outreach, supporting local businesses, and leveraging university assets to enhance business growth.

For instance, the plan aims to make the Orem Business Alliance a strategic priority of the Economic Development Division, engaging city council members in business outreach, and creating buy local procurement initiatives to support local businesses. Furthermore, the plan envisions building strong partnerships with universities and facilitating practical education opportunities for local businesses.

2 – Business Attraction

The City’s strategy for business attraction centers on collaboration with regional and state economic development organizations, identifying available commercial and industrial properties, conducting a Target Industry Analysis, and developing an integrated economic development marketing and business attraction campaign.

This approach involves regular meetings with state leadership, taking inventory of available properties, and marketing Orem as a destination for business. Additionally, the plan calls for the development of a comprehensive marketing campaign targeted at industries identified in the Target Industry Analysis.

3 – Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Fostering an environment conducive to risk-takers and innovators is a significant goal in the EDSP update. The plan outlines various strategies, including supporting business incubation and acceleration, focusing on culture building, increasing access to capital, and creating places for entrepreneurs to flourish.

The plan highlights the importance of supporting the Utah Valley Business Resource Center (BRC) and engaging local universities to facilitate practical education opportunities. It also encourages the development of peer-to-peer mentorship networks and partnerships with organizations supporting historically underrepresented entrepreneurs.

4 – Quality of Life

The EDSP update recognizes the importance of enhancing the quality of life for Orem residents. It includes strategies to focus on outdoor recreation and tourism, create community forums for discussion and research, allocate resources for façade improvement and placemaking, and review and re-evaluate local zoning and policies.

The plan envisions creating a City of Orem Tourism Commission or Advisory Council, collaborating with the Utah Office of Tourism, and exploring opportunities for creating a “Recreation District.” It also emphasizes engaging local universities and philanthropic organizations in community forums.

The Outcome

The City of Orem’s commitment to enhancing its economic development strategies is exemplified by the comprehensive update of its Economic Development Strategic Plan. Led by TPMA, this project aimed to address the changing economic landscape and leverage the city’s strengths.

With a focus on business retention and expansion, business attraction, entrepreneurship and innovation, and improving the quality of life for its residents, Orem is well-positioned to continue its impressive economic growth and prosperity. The collaboration between the City and TPMA reflects their dedication to the city’s continued success.