Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell traded his suit and tie for Spandex last fall so he could lead a group of 30 Asian-cycling company CEOs on a six-day, 420-mile scenic bicycle tour of Utah. Some of the biggest outdoor recreation media companies in Asia trailed along for the ride.
“The tour exceeded our wildest expectations,” says Steve Fishburn, Ogden’s recruitment/relationship manager. “It was front page news in Taiwan. We also had Bike Retailer magazine and other publications here for the event, so we received fantastic media coverage.”
Caldwell, an avid bicyclist, and Fishburn say the purpose of the Scenic Tour of Utah was to showcase Ogden as the “Bicycle Cluster of North America” and draw attention to Utah’s incredible natural resources.
About 80 percent of all bicycles are manufactured in Taiwan, according to Fishburn, hence the Ogden City’s focus on Asian bicycle companies.
Already regarded as a Mecca for outdoor sports enthusiasts, Ogden City has been building on that brand for more than a decade. Caldwell says lifestyle ranks higher than wages when people consider positions and Ogden’s outdoor recreational opportunities make it highly attractive to workers and businesses alike. Indeed, outdoor sports-related companies located in Odgen include Amer Sports, Goode Skis, Scott USA, Quality Bicycle Products and Universal Bike Products. Another company, Enve Composites, maker of composite bicycle wheels, is a home-grown success story. Recognizing Ogden had a niche in the bicycle industry, city leaders decided to capitalize on it.
“During the past decade, we have created nearly 11,000 jobs in the outdoor cluster,” says Caldwell. “About 600 of those jobs are related to the bicycle industry, and we see an opportunity to add even more jobs to that cluster.”
The city recently recruited TRP/Tektro to Ogden, along with Volagi Cycles. Fishburn says TRP/Tectro is one of the largest manufacturers of bicycle brakes in the world, while Volagi is a manufacturer of high-end racing bikes. TRP/Tektro is headquartered in Taiwan, but its North American office was in Northern California. CEO Lance Larabee was looking to relocate to Colorado or Oregon when Fishburn convinced him to make a stop in Ogden.
“We’ve found that once these bicycle-related companies see the city and our natural amenities, they fall in love with the area,” says Caldwell. “You can build a rec center or a sports venue, but so can the community down the road. What you can’t build are natural resources. Either you have them or you don’t.”
Larabee did indeed fall in love with Ogden and moved his office and team here. He also helped Caldwell and Fishburn make connections at the 26th Taipei International Cycle Show, which they attended with EDCUtah COO Todd Brightwell last March. Fishburn says the trio was successful in making contacts with numerous bicycle manufacturers and toured a number of factories while there. They were also hosted by Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung. Because of their similar goals and industries, Ogden City and Taichung are now in the process of developing a sister city relationship.
Upon their return, Fishburn, Caldwell, Brightwell and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) mapped out the Scenic Tour of Utah event to capitalize on the contacts made in Taiwan.
“Our friends in Taiwan understood the East Coast and the West Coast, but they really weren’t sure what was in between,” says Fishburn. “They had no idea about Ogden or Salt Lake City or the magnificent resources that exist in the State of Utah. We realized we had to get them to come to Utah and the Scenic Tour of Utah was our venue to accomplish that and it was phenomenal. We have opened the floodgates.”
Caldwell, Fishburn and Brightwell will be back in Taiwan in March to attend the 27th Taipei International Cycle Show with GOED’s Outdoor Recreation Cluster Director Brad Peterson and Brett Heimburger, GOED’s regional director — Asia. The team will continue marketing Ogden as the bicycle cluster of North America, but they will also use their connections to market Odgen as a spectacular location for other outdoor product companies.
Fishburn says Ogden is a natural fit for outdoor product companies because “they can practically step out their doors and test their products. We have hundreds of miles of trail systems, two river systems that converge in Ogden, a quality workforce and a cost of doing business that is so much less than other areas.”
Caldwell adds that the city has spent millions reclaiming the Ogden River, which has now been designated a national urban fly fishery. The city is also is home to a commercial wind tunnel that local manufacturers and bike and aviation companies have used to test their products. USA Olympic ski jumpers have used it to test their techniques.
While a second edition of the Scenic Tour of Utah planned for September looks to expose another contingency of Asian bicycle industry executives to Utah, Fishburn says Ogden City’s opportunities are much bigger than bicycling, and the connection with the Asian companies could extend into a many other industries. “Our Asian friends are telling their peers that Utah is a great place for business and recreation,” he explains. “Our recruitment opportunities will extend into research and development, distribution, manufacturing, tourism and many other areas.”
What’s more, he notes, many of the Asian manufacturers are looking to develop their own brands in the United States, so why not in Utah?
In addition to its aggressive business recruitment efforts, Ogden is also actively hosting numerous outdoor sporting events. In January, the city and Quality Bicycle Products sponsored the 3rd Annual Global Fat Bike Summit, an event that brought dealers, consumers, land managers, fat bike manufacturers and media representatives to Utah to promote fat bikes’ low environmental impact, seek access to lands currently off limits to bikes and explore the potential for local economic growth opportunity such access can bring.
Fishburn says Ogden City will host Cannondale’s global sales and dealer event in June. The company, which recently opened a retail store in Ogden, is one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world. Ogden is also a venue for a variety of national and international sporting events like the National Collegiate Bicycling Championships, the Tour of Utah and XTERRA, an offroad triathlon and trail run series. For two days in September, Ogden and Snowbasin resort will become “XTERRA Title Town USA” as they host two national championship events.
Despite such efforts, one need only to drive up Weber Canyon on a hot summer afternoon to recognize Ogden is an outdoor paradise. On such summer days, the river teams with hundreds of kayakers and river rafters enjoying one of nation’s most scenic urban waterways.
“Ogden has made an aggressive push to brand itself as an outdoor recreational city,” says Caldwell. “Now we are also marketing the city as the center of North America’s bicycling cluster. It’s all part of our unique lifestyle. People want lifestyle jobs, and Ogden is the place to find them.”