We recently completed the last stop of the 25K Rural Job Tour.
To refresh your memory, the 25K Rural Job tour was organized by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and the World Trade Center of Utah as part of the Governor’s initiative to create 25,000 jobs in Utah’s 25 non-Wasatch Front counties by 2021. A group of statewide economic development partners participated in listening sessions and an expo in each of those 25 counties. EDCUtah was proud to support this initiative as we felt the best way to support our rural partners is to spend time on their turf listening to their challenges and priorities.
We learned a lot through our on-the-ground experience and would share the following thoughts:
- Infrastructure remains a critical barrier in many of our rural communities.
- Workforce (access and training) is a barrier to business expansion in many of our rural communities.
- The affordable housing issues felt along the Wasatch Front have spilled over into rural Utah. Affordable housing is a statewide issue.
- Tourism can be a bridge to additional commercial and economic development opportunities.
- Our rural telecommunications network is an advantage for some of our rural communities but without wrap around business training, support, and a “Silicon Spokes” mentality by urban businesses it is not a panacea.
- And perhaps the biggest take away: while there were similar themes in many of the counties, each of the rural counties had their own unique perspective and set of challenges and opportunities. Rural Utah is highly nuanced and there will not be any one-size-fits-all solutions.
As next steps, we are supporting the 25 rural county commissions as they present their economic development strategic plans and priorities to the Governor.
We are also supporting several rural communities through our match grant program. This year, we had an increase in rural applications and were able to fund several educational, marketing, and mega-sites grants for our rural partners. We believe that better economic development preparedness and product development can help move the needle!
Thank you to our rural partners for your warm hospitality. Although I wasn’t able to participate in each of the visits, we were welcomed as partners in each of the communities. Thanks also to Lt. Governor Cox and WTCUtah for executing on a very ambitious task. And of course, a very big and special thanks to Max Backlund, our Director of Public Development. Max spent many miles, hours, and nights on the road representing EDCUtah on most of the tour stops. The insight he gleaned was invaluable and we appreciate his willingness to be a road warrior this summer.