Let’s set aside those defamation allegations and the whole pen name scandal for a bit. Yes, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder has had quite a year, with plenty of stresses and successes. Still, the top of his agenda is seeing business in West Valley City take off like a rocket.
Before a January city council meeting, press gathered at City Hall as the mayor took the podium to announce steps to support new development projects by attracting more business to the city than ever before.
Winder wants to speed up the city’s business development by holding sessions to work one-on-one with entrepreneurs, providing more demographic info like trends and consumer reports to local businesses and accepting business plans digitally. City Manager Wayne Pyle is calling on the staffs of all city departments to tip off the economic development staff when they come across a business searching for a new location.
“The economy is still fragile, and encouraging job creation continues as one of our highest priorities,” Winder said during his address. “But for companies to thrive and jobs to locate here, we must create an atmosphere that is pro-growth and business-friendly.” The plans Winder layed out in the speech will go into effect this year.
“This doesn’t mean that all business plans get approved,” he says. “But whether it’s our building division or planning division—they’re geared up so as plans come in they have a fast track to run through them.”
ChamberWest President and CEO Alan Anderson says the plan Winder announced will attract more businesses, because it means less headaches. “To get a license, businesses already have to go through a fire inspection, a health inspection, a police inspection—so expediting the approval process helps businesses come online faster,” Anderson says.
Development will make way for a rise in property values, Winder speculates. But if the sting of economic development hits resident pocketbooks, Winder wants to hear about it. The young mayor has established regular “Milk with the Mayor” gatherings for residents to air concerns in person. “It's the first Wednesday of every month,” he says. Milk for the meetings are provided by—who else?—his family’s West Valley farm, Winder Dairy.
But the milk might not be showing up much longer. Winder plans to run for Salt Lake County mayor, but assures West Valley that developments will continue if he leaves.
Valley Fair Mall renovations started in 2007 after Costco moved in and will be completed this year. If the development has seemed a little hurry-up-and-wait, Winder says it’s because building plans don’t get done as fast as they did when the market was at full speed. The city’s two biggest projects are the mall and the multi-use development Fairbourne Station.
A Mayor by Any Other Name
In 2011, Mayor Mike Winder didn't like the press his city was getting in the local media. It was all too negative. When he complained, he was told he could find a volunteer writer to submit more positive stories. When his search didn’t pan out, he took matters into his own hands and wrote four stories for the Deseret News under the name “Richard Burwash.” After revealing his identity, Winder made an apology to the West Valley City Council and city staff, resigned from the Summit Group public relations agency and wrote an apology in the December 2011 issue of West Valley Journal.
Early this year, former UTOPIA fiber-optics company executive Chris Hogan filed defamation charges against Winder, alleging an article falsely accuses him of extortion. Winder says he plans to fight the lawsuit.