Whatever COVID-19 did to the economy of cities in Utah, it appears that Orem has weathered the storm and come out on top.

Kathi Lewis, Economic Development Division manager, said help from places like grocery stories and hardware stores help give even a slight increase in sales tax revenues in 2020.

“Orem is known as the ‘retail hub’ of the county,” Lewis said. “We are thrilled to see several new businesses that have opened.”

Financial resources

“The City of Orem understands this has been a trying year for businesses,” Lewis said. “To help businesses navigate the COVID storm, the Economic Development Division was able to rapidly provide vital information about federal, state, and county COVID-related financial assistance programs through emails, social media, and the creation of a business resources page on their website.”

This information and these important programs have helped businesses stay the course, stabilize, and even flourish in 2020, according to Lewis.

In addition, the Orem Business Alliance was created during this year to support and strengthen the Orem small business community.

It aims to support and strengthen small businesses by providing business networking, advocating for small businesses, connecting businesses to resources, monthly webinars and more.

Lewis also notes the Utah Valley Business Resource Center is always available to help businesses, as well.

“The BRC is a one stop shop for support and services at no cost for the Utah Valley business and entrepreneur community,” Lewis said. “Some of these services include incubator space for startup and small businesses, and a Smart City and Fabrication lab to new businesses access to equipment to test their ideas and process data.”

Housed within the BRC is the Small Business Development Center that offers myriad of free classes, workshops and services to help businesses start, grow and succeed.

Lewis said the city has been able to help businesses connect to federal programs such as paycheck protection program loan forgiveness, rental assistance program, and the small business loan program.

“Mountainland Association of Governments disbursed over $3 million dollars in Utah County Federal Cares Act grant funding to 271 Orem businesses,” she said.

Lewis added restaurants in Orem have figured out how to reach and keep customers. The newly-approved stimulus will also help businesses, like movie theaters, that are having a hard time during COVID-19.

The MAG Restaurant Assistance Program helped 15 Orem businesses with $5,000 worth of products to help each restaurant to expand outdoor dining during COVID.

Lewis said the popular Tru Religion restaurant was one of those restaurants that received financial assistance to expand outside service.

“We worked so hard to inform our businesses about funding,” Lewis said. She also gave Nate Prescott, Orem Economic Development analyst a nod for “his amazing job at sending out emails and running the communications efforts.”

According to Jamie Anderson, senior client service specialist with Colliers International, a premier commercial real estate group, business couldn’t be better.

Anderson takes particular note of the Orem Tech Center.

Orem Tech Center

The Tech Center at 1400 North just off Interstate 15 is a flex warehouse space.

“The demand for industrial space in Utah County continues to grow,” Anderson said. “The Orem Tech Center has negotiated tenant leases before buildings are out of the ground and completed.”

The state of the center in 2020 largely focused on the warehouses’ phases:

  • Phase 1 is fully complete and includes buildings one and two, which are occupied by Mity Lite, Lennox, Vividly, and American Crafts.
  • Phase 2 is beginning on buildings three and four. These new flex warehouse buildings will have 127,000 square feet each and can be divided into 13 units in each building.
  • Letters of intent are currently under review. It is anticipated these tenants will completely fill buildings three and four.

Canyon Tech Center

Justin Farnsworth, general manager of Canyon Park Tech Center, is optimistic about the increased activity and interest in Canyon Park from the regionally strong local tech sector.

Since the end of November, Farnsworth and his staff have given over 120,000 square feet of tours of the Park and generated 12 leads for The Nest, Canyon Park’s premier shared mini work space.

The 85-acre low rise office campus is in a unique position to attract companies that don’t want to be pushed into a highly dense environment, but are instead are looking for dramatic views of Mt. Timpanogos, ample parking, and state of the art amenities — such as trails, walking paths, Provo Canyon and Sundance Ski Resort — just minutes away.

Cascade Office Park

Lewis said the city is particularly excited to see what is happening at Orem Tech Center but also at The Cascade Office Park on 800 North, near the Harmon’s Grocery Store.

Cascade is also doing well, Lewis added. Building one has been completed and is occupied by; Rose Clinic Surgery Center, H2 Homes, Platinum Studio and Daview Allen Construction.

A second office building is currently under construction.

Wolverine Crossing

What was once considered student apartments with empty first floor retail space at Wolverine Crossing south of the Orem Intermodal Hub has come alive in 2020.

The following businesses occupy space in this mixed use development: Proof Pest Control, Brooks Pest Control, Boomerang Books, Set Fire Creative, Kraemer North America, Water Quest and Leavitt Medical.

Lewis said, while growth continues, the retail hub in the business district is University Place.

“The Woodbury Corporation (owners of University Place) has set the example of creativity and innovation in bringing the mall forward,” Lewis said.

University Place

Several new happenings are taking place at one of Utah County’s most popular retail hubs:

  • Five stories of parking with a four-story office structure and 100,000 square feet of Class A office space has opened.
  • Dillards coming to UP with anticipated construction beginning in spring of 2021.

Additionally, University Place is expecting a few new tenants:

  • Cotopaxi Athletic, focused on corporate social responsibility.
  • CM Fashions.
  • Bronxton, a unisex clothing store.
  • Lisa’s Passion for Popcorn.
  • Attic Salt, which sells Millennial and Gen Z pop cultural items.
  • Lulu Lemon.

Lewis said she saved the best for last. Some businesses have expanded into or are new to Orem:

  • Golden Corral’s new building and ribbon cutting.
  • Ken Garff Nissan’s dealership expansion.
  • Leatherby’s Creamery.
  • Grand opening of Handel’s Ice cream.
  • Sweet Rolled Tacos’ grand opening.
  • Crumble Cookies located their headquarters in Orem off of University Parkway.

In all, 2020 ended positively for economic development in Orem. Lewis said she really can’t predict the future but believes Orem is moving into 2021 with good prospects.

“In 2021, our division will be spending our time helping to attract business to Orem,” Lewis said. “We will also be helping existing businesses to rebound, thrive, and grow through building and strengthening business relationships, networking, providing beneficial information, and growing the Orem Business Alliance.”

Residents can visit the City of Orem Economic Development website at https://econ.orem.org/ for more information.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire