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Front Page » October 18, 2005 » Local News » Breakfast keynote speaker Gayle McKeachnie
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Breakfast keynote speaker Gayle McKeachnie

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Staff Writer

The second annual Castle Valley economic summit was held in Castle Dale. The purpose of this summit was to inform business owners and encourage those who would like to start a business, in Emery or Carbon counties. Economic development councils, as well as government leaders from both counties, worked together to bring unity to the area, and inform business people about opportunities that may be available.

Jo Sansevero, chairman of the summit planning committee, welcomed everyone to the summit and introduced Marc Stilson, who presides over the Emery County Economic Development Council. "We are no longer just Emery or Carbon counties," he said. "Markets are becoming global and businesses need to come up with a vision of where to go from here."

"There is a lot of market pressure and we need to adapt to the changing economy. Here in Emery County, our heart and soul is in energy, but we still have room for growth. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to level out the boom and bust cycle. We have a strong economy now, and we need to prepare for the next storm. There are many ways to proceed. One avenue that merits exploration is to bring back people who have moved away. When they come back, they will bring their businesses with them," said Stilson.

Sansevero introduced the keynote speaker for the breakfast session of the summit, Gayle McKeachnie. He is a lawyer who lives in Vernal, he knows rural affairs, and he was once lieutenant governor of Utah.

"I have been to Emery County many times, especially during the years my children were in school, following them to ball games. I have practiced law for 35 years, mostly in corporate law. During those years, I have helped hundreds of businesses start up. Some of those have been successful and some have not. During boom years, I help businesses start their incorporation process, and during the bust years, many of those businesses fold and I've helped them through the bankruptcy process.

"There are many books in print that give a variety of ideas for successful business practice. One that I recommend is The Rise of the Creative Class. This book deals with that 30-40 percent of the population who are considered the creative class. They are defined as those people who do not follow jobs around, the jobs follow these people around. Companies go where the people are. The infrastructure must be in place to draw the creative class to an area.

"Another book is Ripples From Zambezi. This book deals with the story of a man from Australia who is called to help revive a village in Zambezi. His job was to teach the people in communities to foster growth. He used the bottom up approach and began educating the general population of the village. He told them that there are two kinds of people, tourists and lovers.

"A tourist is a person who is looking to make a lot of money and then move on. A lover is a person who has fallen in love with an idea or community and stays the course in that community during the good times and bad. He told the people to forget about the tourists and focus on the lovers.

"Two other books for entrepreneurs are The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind. These books both analyze who millionaires are and where they are. Some people do not recognize that a millionaire may be the guy next door who drives an old pickup truck.

"One more important book, is Innovation U. This book explains the role of the university in a community's economic development. There is a connection between higher education and economic growth.

"I met Gov. Jon Huntsman when I was Gov. Olene Walker's lieutenant governor. We were campaigning against him. After the election, and he won, he called me to lead the rural affairs department. Gov. Huntsman is the best listener of any person I have every met. He is smart and he is a quick learner. He truly cares about rural Utah.

"I took Gov. Huntsman to meet two men who I had helped start in business many years ago. They told him their story. They began in one business, a trucking business, and when the trends turned to other things, like construction, they capitalized on that area too. These two men were determined to do anything that was needed to allow them to stay home in Duchesne. Now they make and repair mining equipment and send their products throughout the world. They have hired two guys who do not mind leaving the area to be their salesmen.

"To grow a local economy, you must help the right people, the lovers. The focus should be on finding those people. I know that in your area, there is such a group, and they are working hard to promote the economy in these two counties. Many people over this state are working for economic development and are competing with one another. This needs to change. Economic development should be approached in clusters, areas in consideration for development. Geographic prejudices are changing, and many are learning to work together for the economic benefit of all. What is good for one area is also good for the other.

"Statistics are beginning to show that the migration from rural to urban areas that happened in the 50s and 60s, is beginning to reverse. The trend now is for people to return to the smaller, quiet areas in rural America. Forty percent of the people in 80 percent of rural America commute to somewhere else to work. Small communities around the Wasatch Front empty out during the day and fill back up again after working hours.

"Rural America is facing a great opportunity. Many parents and families are looking to rural America as a great place to live and raise those families. A couple from New York came to me and asked me to help them relocate to a smaller town. They chose Salt Lake City, which to us is not small, but to a New Yorker was a pleasant change.

"Our competition today is not our neighbors, it's worldwide. Many governments and businesses are using outsourcing as a way of getting their jobs completed. They outsource the work to other countries because it saves them money. It is less expensive and the workers are better educated in other countries. Of the 13 PhDs given in civil engineering this year at Utah State University, only two of the recipients were Americans. The other 11 went home to improve conditions in their home country.

"Education, knowledge, has become the infrastructure of the future. From a report of the future of the community college it states, 'Increasing a country's level of schooling, on average of one year, can increase economic growth from 5-15 percent.' Many jobs do not require a college education, but these jobs pay less. The goal is to draw high paying jobs with benefits, and as a result, the community needs to be better educated.

"Along with education, research is another key to economic growth. Most new innovations are not about new knowledge, it is about applying old knowledge. County extension offices are also becoming involved in economic development. In addition to education and research, traditional infrastructure is very important.

"Rural America needs to welcome outsiders. Many communities do not readily accept people of other cultures and backgrounds. We need to welcome them and include them, or they will leave. The mindset is that outsiders change the culture of an area. Culture is important, but to grow, all cultures must be accepted.

"In a recent study conducted by Wells Fargo Bank and published in a booklet that is available to everyone, the 75 major concerns of small independent businesses were compiled. The number one issue with small business owners is reasonably priced health insurance, number two is liability insurance, number three is workmen's compensation insurance, number four is the price of utilities, and number five is federal taxes. Oddly enough the bottom three of the list were exporting goods, competition from the Web, and competition from the government.

"It is really ironic that the items that most economists focus on and are working to correct, are the bottom items on the list.

"The first five, the most important are not in the forefront of attention.

"The least of the problems is what we spend most of the time trying to correct. Many people who want to start their own businesses do not because they must hang onto steady employment for the health insurance benefit," said McKeachnie.

"Find your niche and capitalize on it," said McKeachnie.

McKeachnie spent time speaking with those attending the summit after his remarks.

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