Utah business news in 2019 included everything from new inventions to new store locations. In between was the heartache of managing a company through adversity and dealing with the death of family members who started a company from the ground up. Encompassing the local narrative, however, were national events impacting the Utah County economy.
Here are the top five business stories of the last year.
1. Ongoing trade negotiations
The Trump administration and China negotiated a modest trade agreement that would suspend tariffs that were scheduled to kick in this week, de-escalating a 17-month trade war — part of ongoing negotiations between the world’s two largest economies. Ongoing trade talks comprise the Daily Herald’s top business story of the year, and its impacts on valley business and agriculture.
Financial markets fluctuated on an almost daily basis in 2019 reacting to the latest information on the trade war front, and businesses and family farms anticipated feeling the impact as trade talks continued. The Trump administration even announced a $12 billion aid package for farmers struggling under the financial strain of the dispute with China.
Economists said that, despite the uncertainty brought about by the negotiations, the latest reports in 2019 depict an American economy that is regaining its footing after absorbing threats throughout the year. Many companies, according to the Associated Press, suspended plans to expand and invest until a deal was reached.
Investors hoped throughout the year that the two countries could make progress toward, at the very least, staving off new tariffs.
2. Qualtrics to add 1,000 jobs, on-site daycare at Provo headquarters
Qualtrics, based in Provo, announced this year it would add 1,000 new jobs in the next five years.
“We are passionate about Utah and are excited to more than double the size of our current tech campus here. Qualtrics continues to be a hypergrowth company as we add both customers and employees at an incredible rate,” said Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics.
The company develops software to enhance customer experiences.
The day care and 150,000-square-foot office expansion will more than double the size of the current Qualtrics campus, bringing the campus size to 355,000 square feet. The office expansion will open in spring 2021 and feature an outdoor terrace equipped with conference areas, meeting spaces, garden views and two new parking structures.
3. Pleasant Grove to house Utah County’s first distillery
What seemed like a simple dream with a simple process took two long years. First, a federal license was needed, then a state license, changing zoning laws first in Lehi and then in Pleasant Grove, and finding a building and signing a lease.
Clear Water Distilling Co. is the passion project of CEO Matt Eau Claire, whose career was originally in software programming. After graduating college, Eau Claire said he began to appreciate liquor and spirits as more than just something to be mixed into a cocktail.
“It just kind of went from there for many years,” Eau Claire said. “I just always had an interest in it and to see what other kinds of flavors and different things people were doing.”
A few years ago, Eau Claire’s friends chipped in to buy him his very own still, encouraging him to try and make his own spirits, since he liked them so much. Eau Claire’s first experiment was distilling a sangria — and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Man, it came out good. I thought it was going to be like jet fuel or something and taste just awful but it came out really good,” he said. “And it was super different, too, it wasn’t like anything I’d ever had. I was really blown away by that.”
In pursuit of getting his commercial license just to continue his new hobby, Eau Claire said the idea snowballed.
4. Woodbury Corp celebrates 100 years of family business
Four generations of Woodbury brothers, sons, daughters and cousins celebrated 100 years in the real estate management business this year.
It all stems from F. Orin Woodbury. He loved making furniture, he was good at it. He had a dream of having his own furniture business. However, World War I started and furniture factories were closing and being used for the war effort, according to Randy Woodbury, president of Woodbury Corp.
Work ethic led the Woodbury Corp. to a plethora of real estate ventures, including international shopping centers. In 1965, they became interested in Utah County for a regional mall. At the time, ZCMI was also interested in locating in Utah County.
University Parkway didn’t exist then but they knew the Utah Department of Transportation was constructing it. People thought F. Orin’s son Wally was crazy building a mall in orchards, said Lynn Woodbury, senior vice president of architecture.
“Provo was looked at. He (Wally) went for the central location. Utah County has been very good to the Woodbury family,” said Rick Woodbury. “That has motivated us to give back with the growth of UVU.”
In Utah County, Woodbury Corp. owns and operates over 3.6 million square feet of office and retail, one hotel and over 500 apartment units, with many more on the way.
5. First all-female team wins International Business Model Competition with product that treats menstrual cramps
When Brigham Young University students Zoia Ali, Taimi Kennerley and Abby Warner became the first all-female company to win the International Business Model Competition earlier this year with a product catering to women, it was a pretty big deal.
They’re also the first BYU team to win the competition in six years, competing against teams of students from hundreds of universities and dozens of other countries.
“I have never screamed louder in my life,” Ali said, when they heard their company name called.
The International Business Model Competition is a student startup competition sponsored by the Rollins Center in the Marriott School of Management at BYU. Not only is the company, aptly named The Girls Co., all women, the product the three came up with is meant just for women as well — a belt designed to ease menstrual cramps.
Kennerley said they searched and searched to make sure they weren’t going to recreate something that already existed, and they were shocked to discover that there really weren’t any products on the market meant to ease period pain, outside of medication or “tips and tricks.”
One solution they knew was common for easing menstrual cramping was heat. But, Kennerley said, when women are using heat to ease cramps, they’re typically stuck with a heating pad that has to be plugged in or heated up, something bulky and difficult to transport. Many women would be forced to miss school or work, or would go to the effort of stuffing a heating pad in a hoodie or in their waistband.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” Kennerley said. “So we decided we need portable heat.”
The best part of winning, the three girls agreed, is the fact that they won with a product to help women.
Carly Porter, Genelle Pugmire and Stacy Johnson contributed to this story.