National chains taking over the Wasatch Front

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    By Megan Stoker

    Continuing their expansion into the Wasatch Front, national chains are making inroads into the Utah County area.

    “It”s obvious to us that there is a need for brand-name retailers in the area [and we] provide a clean, friendly, convenient shopping experience for our customers,” said Frank Thatcher, manager of Kohl”s in American Fork, which opened earlier this month.

    Luxury car dealership, Lexus, opened a Lindon location in April. Chris Elder, a service manager for Lexus, said Lexus did a five-year market research study that indicated a high number of Lexus owners in the area. Reports like that show Utah County is a good place for nationally recognized businesses.

    “Customers didn”t want to drive a long distance for service, so we were drawn to Lindon to accommodate these customers.” said Chris Elder, a service manager for Lexus.

    National store chains are also coming to the local malls. For example, California Pizza Kitchen opened a location at the University Mall in Orem.

    “It”s always great to have a national chain restaurant or store coming to the mall,” said Mindy Nordfelt, a marketing director for the University Mall. “When you get a lot of great stores it creates a lot of positive synergy for the mall and area.”

    Big businesses help the local economy because of the tax dollars they bring.

    “Cities are very anxious to have bigger stores here,” said Steve Densely, president of the Provo/Orem chamber of commerce. “Cities run on taxes and big-businesses bring a lot of tax money to the area.”

    According to Thatcher, shoppers in particular appreciate the new shopping venues, pouring millions of dollars into the new Kohl”s in American Fork alone.

    “In the first three days of business, people were so excited to be that we generated over $3.5 million in sales,” Thatcher said. “People have been asking for the manager and stopping the associates to thank them for coming.”

    Good news for the city may not be good news for local stores however.

    “A lot of small-time stores can be negatively impacted by big-name stores,” Densely said. “There”s no question that a store like Wal-Mart picks off business for everybody.”

    Densely added that government is limited in what it can do to level the playing field between big business and local stores.

    “If you”re going to be in business, you”re going to be in politics,” Densely said. “We”re just concerned with making sure that the politics are fair.”

    Densely said the biggest fear locals have about big business is that it will profit another area instead of Utah County.

    “A lot of people don”t like big stores because they think the money goes to other states,” Densely said. “They think that if they shop at local stores the money stays here.”

    However, inviting big business into the area actually helps the local economy because consumers don”t feel the need to go to bigger shopping centers like Salt Lake City to meet their shopping needs, Densely said.

    Incoming companies also point out that they are bringing many jobs to the area. The California Pizza Kitchen, which opened Oct. 6, will provide over 120 new jobs to the area, while stores such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot can employ several hundred people per store according to their Web sites.

    New stores in the Utah County area include Cabela”s in Lehi; Kohl”s in American Fork, West Jordan and Draper; California Pizza Kitchen in Orem; Wal-Mart in Springvale, Payson and Draper; and Home Depot in Provo, Lindon and American Fork.

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