LEHI -- Cabela's has garnered a lot of attention as it prepared to open its doors today in Lehi, but the presence of the outdoor-supplies juggernaut is just one of the strong, recent economic developments in northern Utah County.
Cabela's plans to attract 4 million visitors in its first year — and sales taxes during that period are projected to reach $2.8 million.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Wednesday that the sales tax and new jobs will be a boost to the economy, but he expects the store to play a bigger role in other areas.
"We forget a very important part of this thing is the multiplier effect it will have just by its presence here," said Huntsman, who was at the store Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting. "And that is hotels, restaurants, homes and the entire support system needed to accommodate four-million tourists per year. It all makes for a real win for Utah."
Huntsman said in addition to providing capital that will allow Utah to attract other retailers and jobs — something he said Utah in general and Utah County in particular have always lacked — Cabela's will improve the state's economic image.
"For our state, in terms of the image that it allows us to project, it really is a shot of confidence," Huntsman said. "It clearly indicates that we're open for business and we can work with and accommodate the very best in the business."
The increased revenue and exposure that Cabela's will bring, combined with the success of other recent developments — such as The Meadows shopping center in American Fork — could be the watershed for other huge developments in the county.
Lehi has already announced a 400,000-square-foot development that will feature a Lowe's and a Costco. The groundbreaking is scheduled for next month.
Lehi Mayor Ken Greenwood said the city's growth, both in population and commerce, has been amazing in recent years.
"It's not that we're big, it's just that we've had so much change so fast," Greenwood said. "It took us 150 years to get about 12,000 people to live in Lehi, and then in about the next 10 years we gained about another 20,000 people."
Greenwood said it has been a challenge to manage the growth and maintain the city's infrastructure but said developments like Cabela's, Lowe's and Costco are providing the funds necessary to keep up with the population explosion.
Work is being done to improve U-92 and the east side frontage road to I-15 — roads that will be used primarily for access to Cabela's now. It will become crucial as the city continues to expand, however.
"We've actually invested a lot of money in the city," Greenwood said. "The roads you drive up on, all the public improvements that have gone into this project, were built by the city . . . and it's the impact fees and people spending their money here that makes it possible to do those things."
American Fork is already using a major commercial development to improve city infrastructure. The city issued a $3.5 million bond to build roads around The Meadows shopping center when it was announced in 2001 and is using the revenue from that development to pay off the debt.
American Fork Mayor Ted Barratt said the shopping center is booming — it went from empty acreage to a development that has a Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Kohl's, PetsMart and others — and he expects the city to pay off the bond ahead of schedule.
Barratt said the development has been a great for residents of American Fork and the surrounding communities. They can take care of their needs close to home he said, and the success of the stores will likely bring in other businesses to the area.
"With the opening of Cabela's, The Meadows and other future developments in east American Fork and west Pleasant Grove, the commercial districts will begin to blend together," Barratt said.
But in all the success, there are still casualties. Greenwood said he has seen friends in Lehi close lumber and hardware stores that have been in the family for years.
"I really hate to see that because it's a casualty of our time and it's a casualty of our changing economics," Greenwood said. "There's some sadness that goes on with that, but you just have to be happy about it all and put on a good face and have at it."
(Copyright 2005 The Deseret Morning News)