Survey: Some CEO's Concerned About 'Mormon Influence' in Utah
December 8th, 2005
The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- On one hand, some of the chief executives responding to a new survey expressed concern about the effect of the "Mormon influence" in Utah.
On the other hand, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. got high marks -- particularly from those who mistook him for his father, Huntsman Chemical founder Jon Huntsman Sr.
The survey of 21 corporate leaders involved in business relocations and expansions in the state concluded the biggest obstacle to economic development was getting the executives to visit and see the state for themselves.
Real Estate Professionals for Economic Growth, a group of commercial real-estate agents and developers, commissioned and wrote the informal survey released Wednesday. Over several months, the group questioned executives from companies who have relocated or expanded in Utah and those who gave it a pass.
"There were not a lot of companies who wanted to talk about the real reason they didn't come to Utah. But the perceived problems were very predictable," said Bill Martin, managing partner with Colliers Commerce CRG and RE-PEG president.
"We still have a perception problem," he said. "The Olympics helped reduce that but it'll never go away."
He said, "We need to quit trying to rationalize the Mormon issue. It is what it is. We just have to get over this image of quirkiness that we have and move on."
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said the church influence issue can be bad "if people think they won't be welcomed here. My philosophy is that if they spend some time here they'll recognize people have a lot of conceptions about Utah that aren't true."
One person surveyed said that "the Mormon influence can be a negative. There is no question about that." Another states that there is a stigma associated with the state that "if you are not a Mormon it may not be a place that you fit in."
Others said the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is responsible for such positive attributes as "the state's work ethic, friendliness, clean streets, public safety and the overall absence of crime" and one called it "a great place to live and work."
The survey also found business leaders balking because of the state's relatively small population base and 8-to-5 work force. Executives also are concerned about the future of Salt Lake City's Delta Air Lines hub and the availability of existing sites for large manufacturing plants or raw land with utilities installed.
Utah's quality of life, natural surroundings, affordable lifestyle and the executives happy to live in the state are the best chance to counteract the perceptions, the study found.
Chris Roybal, the governor's senior adviser for economic development, said continuing site visits and announcements of expansions and relocations put Utah on the economic development map.
"You're always going to have some positive and negative feedback about doing business in your community," he added. "That doesn't mean we aren't looking for better ways to present our information, create a one-stop shop and get the companies here."
The Governor's Office of Economic Development contributed $15,000 to the $55,000 survey.
The state's hosting of the 2002 Winter Games was cited as a reason some business owners considered Utah in the first place.
Religious bias cost job, says teacher
Sevier County: She claims she was let go because she was not a practicing Mormon, and replaced by a less-qualified instructor
By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
In Sevier County, everyone noticed
she was a coffee drinker. Co-workers looking for the sacred garments worn by
church members never saw her wearing them.
Erin Jensen says those clues revealed she was not a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and led to even more talk about her beliefs.
"There were rumors around the community that I was a witch," the former South Sevier High School teacher testified Wednesday.
The end of the hallway where she and another non-LDS teacher had classrooms was referred to by students as "Hell's Corner." Jensen testified she has no religion and has not been active in the LDS Church for more than 20 years.
After three years of good evaluations, district officials refused to rehire her after the 2002-2003 school year, Jensen contended. She said a less qualified male teacher who was active in the LDS Church replaced her and a second slot that opened to teach English was filled by another male Mormon.
Jensen gave her testimony during a trial of her lawsuit accusing Sevier School District officials of discriminating against her because of her gender and her non-membership in the LDS Church. She said the loss of her job was devastating.
"I love teaching," she testified. "It's not right."
But lawyers for the district say officials were unaware of her religion and were just concerned about falling test scores and Jensen's teaching of core curriculum such as grammar. During cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Skolnick pointed out that Jensen had put down her religious affiliation as LDS when applying to graduate school in 2001 at Brigham Young University.
But Jensen responded that her answer was based on her Mormon upbringing and was different than claiming membership in the church.
Her suit seeks back pay and unspecified damages. On Wednesday, Jensen said her ultimate goal was to resume her job teaching English and speech.
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