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Ogden boasts biggest tech growth in Utah as the industry 'decentralizes'

Brian Albers

The irony of the U.S. tech industry is that even though it’s made it possible to work anywhere, for much of its history jobs have been concentrated in a handful of mostly coastal cities and urban areas.

But that’s beginning to change according to a new report from the Washington D.C.-based public policy think tank Brookings Institution. It tracked the growth and change of the tech sector, defined as a group of “advanced industries” such as computer equipment manufacturing, software publishing and data processing.

Researchers say the changes seem to be driven by the pandemic and rise of remote work. The report found job growth has slowed in some of the biggest tech “superstars” like the Bay Area and Seattle and increased in other midsized and smaller markets, including “smaller quality-of-life meccas and college towns.

One of the beneficiaries is Ogden, which had a 7% increase in tech-related jobs between 2019 and 2020, the report found. That’s more than any other region in the state.

Ogden’s tech scene includes companies that are based there or have offices there, such as software companies Onblay and Kadince.

But one of the largest drivers of growth has been the defense industry’s shift into software-related work, said Sara Meess, the business development division director for Ogden City. Jobs at Hill Air Force Base and nearby defense contractors increasingly require tech skills in areas like software development and cybersecurity.

“We see it with Hill, we see it with big contractors like Northrop Grumman,” she said. “But there's also growth of smaller companies that may be suppliers to Northrop or that may have contracts with Hill Air Force Base.”

She said the transition has opened up new opportunities to create an “innovation ecosystem for the defense industry,” allowing local businesses that have not traditionally been involved in defense work to partner with government agencies or contractors. Ogden’s tech incubator Catalyst Campus, for example, is launching a workshop in May to connect local businesses with the Air Force to help with data management in the cloud.

Trina Limpert, a longtime tech executive who now runs a nonprofit focused on helping women land tech jobs, said the demand for tech workers has been a boon for women in particular.

Her program, known as Tech Moms, originally launched in Lehi and Ogden in 2020 to take advantage of the opportunities there. She said she has partnered with Hill Air Force Base from the beginning, but she’s also seeing more opportunities in tech recruiting and sales. She is about to launch a month-long training program with Ogden-based sales and marketing company MarketStar.

“I've been working on programs like this for 25 years, but the time right now is absolutely amazing, as far as the growth of tech here in Utah and the need and demand we're seeing for women in the workforce,” she said.

The option for remote work has also helped many graduates of the program land tech jobs in other areas, she said, even if they continue to live in Ogden or other parts of the state.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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