NORTH LOGAN, Utah, Jan. 28, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — The closure of several large chain stores in Cache Valley doesn’t appear to signal a declining economy. In fact, economists say there are signs the area is thriving.
The announcement this month that the North Logan Kmart, the only one in Cache Valley, will close in April did not come as much of a surprise to many.
“They have been an endangered species for a very long time,” said Marion Bentley, a Utah State University professor of Applied Economics. “Kmart never successfully competed with Kohl’s or Walmart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond.”
In a news release, Sears Holdings (corporate owners of Kmart) said “Store closings are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model.”
Kmart is not the only large chain store to close in Logan over the last six months. Gold’s Gym, Pizza Factory, Sports Authority, Paradise Bakery, Rue 21, Golden Corral and Dunkin’ Donuts have all said their goodbyes and closed their doors.
Bentley said Cache County, with an overall population of fewer than 150,000 residents, has been growing and prospering over the years.
“The local economy is still strong and unemployment is still low. In fact, the area is growing and showing more potential for development,” Bentley said.
He suggests Kmart never really bounced back from the latest recession and Sports Authority lost business to an expanded Al’s Sporting Goods. Meanwhile, a store like Paradise Bakery that was located in the mall closed due to limited traffic.
Bentley said the departure of Dunkin’ Donuts was the most baffling since the store was in and out of town quickly.
But a report published in Forbes Magazine in October 2015 said Dunkin’ Donuts decided to close 100 franchise locations due to the price of eggs spiking after an avian flu outbreak, and concerns with a hike in the minimum wage in cities across the country.
The Logan store franchise closed in November.
Perhaps small businesses in Logan have helped play a role in the Cache Valley’s steady economy. Carrier Purser, owner of Carrie Purser Makeup and Hair Artistry and a lifelong resident of Logan, agrees that large retailers pulling out of the valley have made it hard for places like Cache Valley Mall to maintain customers. But, she said, locally owned businesses like Al’s Sporting Goods, The Sportsman and The Bluebird Café are well supported by the community.
Just a few years ago, CNN Money named Logan 14th among the Top 50 best cities in the country to launch a small business.
Bert Sperling, owner and operator of BestPlaces.net, ranked Logan as one of the best places in the county to live, saying the economic base extends well beyond Utah State University.
“A diverse set of businesses have discovered the area’s pleasant surroundings, good labor force, and low operating costs,” Sperling wrote in his review.
“Industries include high tech, biomedical research, food processing, printing and call centers with names like Pepperidge Farms, Moore Business Forms, Herff-Jones (yearbooks) Convergys and Tyco.”
Cache Valley’s large manufacturing industry is also a success.
The unemployment rate in Logan is 2.60 percent, and job growth is up 2.91 percent. Sperling says future job growth over the next 10 years is predicted to be 43.20 percent.
It might seem like the post-recession period sent the Cache Valley economy into decline, but residents and economists would disagree with that assessment. They expect the area to continue growing and prospering in 2016 and beyond.