In Economic Development, What Could be Better than a Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony?

Brad Baird loves ribbon-cutting ceremonies. He should – he’s been to a lot of them during his 13 years as a business development manager and loaned executive to EDCUtah from Questar Corporation.

“Ribbon-cutting ceremonies are the dessert of economic development,” he says. “That’s where you see companies, employees, communities, government leaders and economic developers come together in celebration of a successful project.”

Baird also loves rural economic development and over the course of his tenure at EDCUtah he’s been involved in some big rural projects. The Procter & Gamble location and expansion project in Box Elder County stands out in his mind. It has accounted for hundreds of jobs, hundreds of millions in capital investment and millions in state revenues, he says.

Ditto for the JBS USA expansion in Cache County. Formerly Swift & Company, JBS is nearing completion of what has become a $100-million expansion of its beef processing complex in Hyrum that will retain approximately 500 jobs while adding another 120 new jobs to rural Utah. Baird says the company was in a position where it had to automate its functions in Hyrum or do it somewhere else in the company’s footprint. “Winning this expansion project was a huge step in protecting Utah jobs and adding to the economy in Cache County. I’ve been thrilled to be a part of it,” he explains.

Also endeared on his heart is the Cabela’s Distribution Center in Tooele. Baird led that economic development project for seven years before the company selected Utah. He’s also had his hand in successful projects like the Home Depot call center in Ogden, which started out with 500 employees and now employs more 1,000; the Sutter Physician Services location and expansion, which began with 30 employees and employs more than 1,000 today; the Pepperidge Farm expansion in Cache County and the Metal Craft/SyberJet project in Cedar City.

“Even a medium-sized project in a rural community can be a game changer,” says Baird.

A successful real estate broker with 20 years on his resume as the director of real estate for Questar, Baird came to EDCUtah for what was expected to be a one-year stint as a business development manager. He recalls being the 10th or 12th loaned executive to join EDCUtah and came to the organization when Chris Roybal was CEO. At the end of Baird’s year of service EDCUtah was short-handed in economic developers and so its new president and CEO, Jeff Edwards, convinced Questar to extend Baird’s service for another year. “Thirteen years later, Jeff is still convincing Questar to let me stay on at EDCUtah,” Baird says with a smile.

But Baird’s tenure at EDCUtah goes without complaint. In fact, he’s completely ingrained in the organization and has developed a kinship with the corporate real estate executives involved in the expansion and relocation projects EDCUtah is working. “I know their jobs and what they are looking for,” he explains. That knowledge stems from Baird’s corporate real estate experience at Questar, where he managed a $45 million portfolio of real estate investments before the company decided to divest the portfolio and use the profits for strategic initiatives.

“My corporate real estate experience has been a particularly good fit at EDCUtah,” he adds. As an economic developer, Baird says Utah is one of the best products you will find. It offers an unparalleled workforce, lifestyle, business environment and collaboration.

When he’s not working an economic development project for EDCUtah, Baird is still heavily involved with corporate real estate for Questar and the distribution of real estate assets. And when he’s not serving in his dual roles at Questar and EDCUtah, you’re likely to find this Utah native on his Blue Spruce farm in the Heber Valley, where he has been raising trees for 25 years as part of his strategic retirement plan.

“My farm is an extension of my love for rural Utah,” he says.