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Front Page » August 15, 2006 » Local News » Executive retreat-new way to look at opportunity
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Executive retreat-new way to look at opportunity

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Liz Cleveland and Mike Mower, Gov. Jon Huntsman's deputy chief of staff attend the executive retreat at the Castle Valley Outdoors.

The Emery County Economic Development Council is taking a new and exciting approach to garnering awareness of the assets of Emery County. A unique package was sent out to former Emery County residents who have left the county. The "Roots and Boots," campaign included a child's size boot and an invitation printed on leather which invited the person to attend an executive retreat at the Castle Valley Outdoors in Moore.

Those who took advantage of the offer met at the ranch on Thursday and were treated to a steak dinner prepared by Bonnie Swenson. Swenson recently became the cook at the ranch and takes care of the ranch guests in grand style.

After dinner the group gathered around the campfire and watched the sunset from the picturesque Castle Valley Ranch. Along with the scenery watching, members of the economic development council gave presentations as to what the council hoped to accomplish with the Roots and Boots effort.

Marc Stilson said when you look at economic development, the focus is on retention and growth to create a robust economy. Existing businesses need support to grow. Stilson said the economic development council is made up of a volunteer board and Mike McCandless is the full-time employee in the county's economic development office. Stilson went through the traditional economic development process of recruiting a business. "Emery County has never recruited a business the traditional way," said Stilson. "With energy and mining the county's eggs have all been in one basket. When technology became more efficient, mining jobs declined. The population in Emery County has dropped 20 percent since 1984. I left the county and was gone for 12 years. All the good things are still here. Things are changing, kids are going to college and taking white collar jobs out of the county. Where do we want to be in 20 years? It's tough to bring in big companies. Where can we be successful? In 20 years will our children have the opportunity to live in Emery County? The coal mines and the power plants won't be here forever. We need to diversify. There has been a resurgence of agriculture and farming with the new sprinkling systems.

"Hopefully we can bring in small to mid-sized businesses with two-50 employees. A horse ranching operation has come into the county. Small businesses can be successful here. Native sons and daughters can come back into the county. There are resources available to help them. Mike at the economic development office will work with them. The idea of this retreat is to bring people back into the county and reacquaint them with their roots," said Stilson. "We need some insight for Emery County from those not living here, to help us be more successful."

Jo Sansevero, chairman of the economic development council said she was gone from the county for 30 years, living most of them in California in Orange County. She liked the idea that not much had changed in the county in the years since she left. She said, "Emery County has a wonderful lifestyle. There are good people here. It's a good place to raise children and a good place to retire. We have mild winters with some snow and beautiful summers and bitter springs. I would like to see us create a place for people to retire. Retired people need activities and medical care.

"We are working right now to expand the Millsite Golf Course to 18 holes. Because retired people like 18 hole golf courses," said Sansevero.

Sansevero gave an idea for a retirement community saying in Leisure World in California they lease homes to people and when the elderly can no longer live in the home and take care of themselves the home goes back to the retirement community.

Kathleen Truman said retirees these days are more active and have different interests.

Participants try their hand at trap shooting at the Castle Valley Outdoors in Moore. The economic development council hosts the group for a weekend of fun and discussions on economic development.

Mike McCandless said he just returned from the Rural Summit in Cedar City and a major topic of discussion there was how do you get people to invest in a rural community. Millford recently announced they will be the site of a new PVC pipe plant. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for that community. McCandless said he sees the economic council and his office as the fertilizer and not the seed. People in the private sector make things happen and the government agency should be there to clear the path and try to make it easier. His office is working hard on infrastructure and trying to lower costs of locating a business in rural areas; especially power lines and natural gas costs. McCandless said people in Emery County need to learn that when the tide rises every boat in the harbor rises with it. When a business succeeds in the county it's good for everyone. When someone returns home, everyone succeeds. "I want to knock down barriers. I don't need huge victories, but small incremental victories. I challenged all the cities to decide what they wanted to be. I want individuals to be involved and buy in. If parent's want their kids back they need to be enthusiastic about the county. In rural Utah important things don't happen unless people in the private sector are willing to take a risk. We need to change attitudes, expand ideas and bring people back," said McCandless.

Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford said the county needs growth, and an economic base. "If we are to survive as a county we need to work on it, even a 1 percent growth rate. "I left the county in 1959 and worked for 32 years for Mountain Fuel. Always in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to retire in Emery County. Within six months after my retirement we had sold out in Ogden and were back in the county. Emery County right now is in a good situation, our unemployment rate is 3.8 percent and it's the lowest ever experienced. If you want to work, you can find work in the county now," said Kofford. He also explained the building permits are up and last year 35 permits for new housing were issued. Also last year there was a positive property tax increase. A conditional use permit is being issued to a man from Phoenix who makes wooden parts for Model A Fords.

"If you want to come back we'll be waiting for you," said Kofford. "We must have growth or we'll go backwards. We want the baby boomers, the people who are looking for a place."

The guests were asked to comment on perceptions of the county and reasons they might or might not want to return.

Adam Ewell said one concern of he and his friends was the quality of education in the county. He said when he went to college he felt like an idiot because he wasn't challenged enough in high school and things seemed too easy and homework was nonexistent.

Lou Sansevero said he believes education can be community driven and to improve the education level, the community needs to be actively engaged.

Stilson said they need to identify areas that are obstacles and work to change them.

McCandless told of the educational camps held by the council this summer and how they are starting down the right path with enhancing the educational experiences of students in the county.

Mike Mower is Gov. Jon Huntsman's deputy chief of staff and he said, "You are only limited by your desire. When I went to Emery County schools, I had the opportunity to do so many things. In my office, I have a few books and one of them is the history of Ferron and another the history of Emery County. I am a native of Emery County and very proud of that. I had a great experience growing up here. I recently visited a small town in North Dakota that was dying. All of the businesses were shut down. There is hope for Emery County. People change the dynamics. You are looking at a 20 year plan for Emery County. That augers well for Emery County. The package that was sent out to invite us to this event, was the most creative and innovative to pass through the governors office and we get a lot of invitations to events. You are taking proactive steps. I am very proud and very thrilled with your economic development committee. You are looking at new innovative and creative ways to deal with the issues we all know are out there," said Mower.

Stilson asked Liz Cleveland how difficult she thought it would be to pull people off the Wasatch Front. She said the difficulty might lie in those people that aren't from the county, they don't have an emotional connection. From a business standpoint, someone might find the charm here and want to relocate.

Truman said it has been the experience at the Castle Valley Outdoors that after someone has spend three-four days in the county they can begin to appreciate the differences between here and the big city. "Once they've been here they want to come back again," said Truman.

Lou said we hope to plant the seed with this group and recruit you as recruiters for the county to send people our way.

The retreat continued with golfing, fly fishing, ATV riding, dinners and presentations by local mayors.

Those attending included: Melissa Fossat, Troy Dye, Todd Snyder, Mike Mower, Liz Cleveland, Mikel Fossat, Jennifer Dye, Adam Ewell and Dell Stilson.

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