@Hegbork: I think you must have had some serious drain of resources to build all that stations, to build more stations + the UTs, to support all those stations, which in turn need more stations (rocket equation at it's finest)
Those resources were missing to produce important stuff when the big "empty dock happening" occured.
For me the most important resources are the building materials, because you can make everything else out of them. Station slots are precious in the beginning, so it should be a 12 slot sector to start with. I also often dimantle factories if the stockpile of a certain good gets to big and replace it with something i need more at that time. (set DA to ignore station and rescue the leftover goods)
If you compare availability after the docks are empty there are 3 types of building materials
ENERGY - very common, full factories, still common in docks, can be bought easily
ORE - medium availability, empty docks, but full factories are common enough to buy it in quantity
CLOTH, RASTAR and TELADIANIUM - very rare, empty docks, empty factories, hard to get hold of large amounts fast
So my buildorder for the 1st sector is:
1: scruffin farm (because you need food and it's the cheapest, you can dismantle it later when you have thousands of them stored)
2: teladianium foundry (it only needs energy)
3: 1st cloth and rastar loop (4 stations)
4: 2nd teladianium foundry
5: 2nd cloth and rastar loop
6: 3rd teladianium foundry
Food: in my game (day 3, 6 sectors) meatsteaks and nostrop are plentyful in argon and teladi docks so i haven't build a single factory
Money wise i don't believe in UTs and haven't used them. The corporate missions give plenty in the beginning. Execute triggers like half an hour for 1 free million. Collect yields like 13 mil for a small reputation penalty. Steal often gives a ship with weapons worth 3 million for free.
Even now i can balance out my expenses with missions (defend, destroy, weaken) but have claimed a mining sector recently to generate passive income.
The reap shuttle to salvage is day one's number two priority after the scruffin farm. When i saw an invasion i instantly dropped a satellite and also one on each race border with xenon, yaki, pirates. Some capital weapons from invasion leftovers - another 4 million for free.
The tech ship parts (chip, computer, tubes) can be tricky because when you start to need much of them they are already drained from the docks and factories are always low on stock. So it's better to make sure you produce all three of them, even if it's on low quantity.
The trade run command can help here. Ships will automatically refuel and try to collect all those little stocks and squeeze as much as possible out of the economy. It's expensive, but you can get quite a bit and it works for shields, satellites and lasers too.
Oh, and if you want to produce lasers and missles - build BOFU loops like crazy! I'm almost dedicated to put 6 bofu labs exclusively in a single sector
"Hard pounding, gentlemen. Let's see who pounds the longest." - Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, British general and Prime Minister