Office of Economic Development working hard to diversify and strengthen the economy of Emery County
p>The Emery County Office of Economic Development (OED) has recently announced several new initiatives to help stimulate the economy of Emery County. The Office of Economic Development is headed by Marlin Eldred under the direction of the Emery County Commissioners. Commissioner Drew Sitterud has direct oversight responsibility for economic development. Eldred and Commissioner Sitterud have been working closely with a number of community based organizations over the past year to develop initiatives targeted towards stimulating growth of existing businesses and attracting new business ventures to the area.
The OED works closely with the Economic Development Council, Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Green River Chamber of Commerce, Travel Bureau, Department of Workforce Services, Resource Conservation and Development, Living Utah, Small Business Administration, Association of Governments and the Green River Economic Action Team. "As with any objective, the more people involved the better are your chances of achieving that objective," said Eldred. "Our community based organizations bring great ideas and concepts to the table with regards to business retention, recruitment and tourism. I see them as a great asset to economic development and the county as a whole."
County and civic leaders recognize the importance of working to improve the economic well-being and quality of life of a community by actively seeking to create and retain jobs that facilitate growth and provide a stable tax base. The past few years have been hard on the county budget as the current economic base has shrunk considerably due to mine closures, reduced mineral resource funds, out-migration from the county and aging of important tax revenue generating infrastructure. To counter this trend the county is organizing an effort to support and encourage local industries as they look to market their products across the nation and around the globe. As part of this effort the OED is working closely with the Emery County Chamber of Commerce to develop a business directory highlighting the products and services Emery County businesses can provide.
The most important objective of the OED is to cultivate growth from within the county. Economic gardening is a term heard frequently that describes the objective of cultivating entrepreneurial efforts locally. Economic gardening looks at established businesses within the community and helps them connect with local and state government resources in order to help them grow. A great example of this is the State sponsored smart sites that economic development has helped establish with local partners within the community. Emery Telcom recently received an award from the State Office of Economic Development for the success of their call center located in Orangeville. There are a number of other companies in the county working on cutting edge ideas for niche markets around the globe.
One way to assist local businesses is through the Revolving Loan Funds (RLF) managed by the Economic Development Council and the Southeasthern Utah Association of Local Governments. These loan funds are made available to new and existing businesses in order to provide gap financing, working capital and fixed assets financing for business creation and growth that cannot be fully funded through the traditional system. The object of the revolving loan funds is to encourage growth and stimulate private investment in Emery County. In 2003, 13 Emery County businesses requested funding from the Economic Development Council and seven were awarded loans totaling over $179,000 through the RLF program.
Another important piece of the puzzle in economic development is recruitment of progressively minded small to medium size businesses to Emery County. "We recognize the importance of diversifying the economic base in Emery County," said Marc Stilson, Chair of the Emery County Economic Development Council (EDC). "It will take a concerted and determined effort over a number of years to increase the number of small to mid-size companies producing goods and services over a wide range of economic disciplines." The OED in conjunction with EDC is working on a recruitment strategy to target specific businesses that would fit in a rural setting and that produce goods and services not currently being supplied by businesses in Emery County. The idea is to expand employment opportunities without competing with established business interests. These types of companies create sustainable employment. They bring in raw product and create finished products that are sold outside the area bringing profits back to Emery County. The county has already began direct recruitment efforts. A recruitment trip to California in 2003 highlighted the Emery County area to a light manufacturing firm that would be a good fit for Emery County. The company uses large amounts of power in their production process and would have the advantage if they located in Emery County of being linked directly to one of the power plants such that they would have a consistent source of energy and avoid costly brown-outs. Additional benefits such as the low cost of workers compensation insurance in Utah also were identified in the recruitment presentation.
Another recruitment initiative being pursued by the county in cooperation with EDC is a recruitment program targeted towards former residents of Emery County who may be in a position to come back to the county to pursue "New Economy" type business ventures. The information highway that is now available to Emery County offers an extremely inexpensive way to provide services and professional expertise to clients across the nation and world. With the improvements in technology and communication, many different types of industries can provide services from anywhere in the country. Their businesses do not necessitate being tied down to an urban area. The EDC is interested in finding interested individuals who may be owners, CEO's, or simply employees of such companies and inviting them to consider relocating to Emery County.
Currently, one of the hottest trends across the country is being able to live and work in a place that you have chosen because of the way of life rather than because your company requires you to. Additionally, many companies are realizing that 'way of life' benefits such as a rural setting, reduced traffic congestion, clean air and ample outdoor recreational opportunities play an increasingly important part in recruiting top quality employees. Many senior residents of Emery County would also like to see opportunities open up for their sons and daughters (and most especially - grandchildren) to come back to Emery County. "We still have solid, hard-working and high standard communities in which to raise a family, no traffic congestion, wonderful recreational opportunities, plenty of open spaces, very little crime and most of all, the country lifestyle," stated Stilson. "Hopefully our urban neighbors around the West will recognize these qualities and desire to participate in the opportunities that are being created."
With those ideas in mind, the OED is preparing a recruitment package that highlights Emery County. The greatest asset Emery County has to offer is Lifestyle. Wide opens spaces and the relaxed rhythm of small town life is the one quality of life asset that cities along the Wasatch Front cannot offer. There are many people living along the Wasatch Front that desire a quality rural lifestyle but are unable to achieve it because of the lack of opportunity in the rural areas. "We are currently working on initiatives that promote and enhance our community's human, natural and cultural assets. It is our objective to entice individuals and businesses that desire a rural lifestyle to locate in Emery County so that they may enjoy the quality of life Emery County has to offer," stated Eldred. "It is important that throughout this effort we focus on quality growth such that we do not destroy the very reasons we like living here."
One such effort currently underway to improve the cultural assets of our community is the formation of the Emery County Arts Council. This initiative is being organized with the help of the Emery County Economic Development Council. It is being spearheaded by Karen Truman who is also the President of the Emery County Community Theater. The hope is that by coordinating the efforts of our local arts and culture organizations that more and better programs can be offered to county residents. Top on the list of things to accomplish for the Arts Council is construction of a community theater, smaller and more intimate in size and scope than the currently utilized high school auditorium.
Two more initiatives that economic development is working on are the organization of an economic summit for Emery County business in September 2004 and the publication of a monthly economic development newsletter that will connect and inform all of the different organizations working on economic development.
For further information on economic development or if you would like to volunteer to work with any of the community based organization, call Marlin Eldred at 381-5576 or 749-1254.