Salt Lake City’s economic development director is stepping down

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City's Economic Development Director Lara Fritts has won plaudits from state and local officials for her work bringing business to Utah's capitol, including the newly constructed POST Cereals distribution center at Freeport West Landmark 14. Major Jackie Biskupski announced Monday Fritts would depart in August for a job in Virginia.

Salt Lake City’s economic development director is stepping down in August to take a job in Virginia, after three years in Utah’s capital city.

Lara Fritts, 48, has been the first person to head the city’s Department of Economic Development since Mayor Jackie Biskupski elevated it to a Cabinet-level position, shortly after the mayor took office in 2016.

Biskupski said Monday that Fritts had succeeded in creating a world-class economic development campaign on the city’s behalf, having a hand in generating over 9,000 new jobs, drawing nearly $1 billion in capital investment and luring two dozen new employers to Salt Lake City.

“Lara Fritts’ expertise makes her a valuable asset for any organization and we wish her well as she embarks on her newest effort,” said Biskupski, who announced in March she would not seek a second term.

Fritts has taken a job as president and CEO of Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP), an economic-development agency serving the Virginia’s capital city of Richmond and the adjoining counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico. She leaves her current post Aug. 2.

She said in a statement Monday she will depart Salt Lake City “with a heavy heart.”

“I am incredibly proud of the work we have done as a part of ‘Team Utah,’ and I know this Department will continue to lead because of the high-caliber talent we have in place,” Fritts said.

Fritts was a Maryland-based business consultant with 18 years experience when she came to the Beehive State in 2016, with stints as president and CEO of the city of Annapolis’ Economic Development Corp. and, prior to that, as head of city economic development in Cudahy, Wis.

In her Utah post, Fritts has presided over city business development efforts while the state’s economy is humming, coordinating a wide array of employer recruitment and business-expansion strategies with efforts at the city’s Redevelopment Agency and the Salt Lake City Arts Council.

She has also represented Salt Lake City as a board member on the Utah Inland Port Authority, which governs a massive and controversial distribution hub proposed by state lawmakers for the city’s northwest side. The port is the subject of a lawsuit filed by Biskupski, claiming the port’s creation is unconstitutional and usurped municipal authority.

During Fritts’ city tenure, online retailer Amazon has opened a 855,000-square-foot customer fulfillment center in Salt Lake City, the first of its kind in Utah, promising up to 1,500 full-time jobs. Switzerland-based Stadler Rail has built and opened its first U.S railcar manufacturing and assembly site near Salt Lake International Airport. UPS and Post Consumer Brands have also launched major Utah expansions.

Last week, the Washington, D.C.,-based International Economic Development Council, the largest global organization of its kind, gave the department she oversees a rare council accreditation, a recognition only 64 groups have received worldwide.

“Lara and her team have created opportunity for thousands of people, been instrumental in helping the city address critical issues, and have become part of the fabric of the region’s business development efforts,” the mayor said in a statement.

Biskupski spokesman Matthew Rojas said Monday the mayor expected to name an interim director before Fritts’ Aug. 2 departure.

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