If You Build It, They Will Protest

Matthew Godfrey, the 36-year-old mayor of Ogden, Utah, wants to transform his town into the business center of the winter-sports universe. His biggest obstacle? Ogden, Utah.

Outside: You've said you want to turn Ogden into "the hub of the ski industry." Do you really think this is possible?
Godfrey: It's already happening. So far, seven companies have moved to town, including the headquarters for Descente and the back-end operations for Rossignol and Scott USA. And there are more in the works that I'd love to tell you about but can't. The idea is to become the Milan or Silicon Valley of the ski industry.

Yeah, but Milan, Silicon Valley . . . Ogden?
We're hoping that we don't overshadow the other two. Our real estate values are low, and we're only 40 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport. It's cost-effective to live and do international business here, and we have two whitewater parks, an ice-climbing tower, rock climbing, and mountains just five minutes from downtown. The closest skiing is a half-hour away. But the gondola will change that.

Right. That's the most ambitious, and controversial, part of your plan: a new resort that would connect to downtown via a gondola.
It would be a roadless ski village. The only way to get there would be the gondola, which would effectively put the resort's base and energy right in downtown.

From an old industrial outpost of 80,000 to a business hub with a ski resort right in downtown—it's easy to understand why some locals are opposed.
The most difficult challenge has been informing people. But my experience has been that when people fully understand the project, they're vastly in favor of it.

It looks like there's still a lot of convincing to do, though. That yard-sign feud got pretty heated this past summer.
Smart Growth Ogden [an anti-gondola organization] didn't lose many signs, but [pro-gondola] Lift Ogden lost about 1,000. I've never seen anything like it. I lost two myself. It takes a lot of courage to go into the mayor's yard and take his sign.

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