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Front Page » October 2, 2007 » Local News » Castle Valley Economic Summit: Part I
Published 3,434 days ago

Castle Valley Economic Summit: Part I

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Scott Hirschi, economic director for Washington Couny speaks at the summit.

The fourth annual Castle Country Economic Summit was held at the new Events Center in Price on Sept. 19-21. The event began with a dinner and instruction in cowboy action shooting at the new North Springs shooting range on Wednesday. On Thursday there were instructional classes on irrigation management, planning and zoning certification and pesticide applicator certifications. A dinner was held that night at the Castle Valley Ranch with entertainment by Val Carter, Sam DeLeeuw and Jay Frandsen.

On Friday was the traditional summit with speakers, commercial booths and workshops. Four years ago when the Emery County Economic Development Council formed the idea for a summit the purpose was to reach out to small local businesses as well as larger businesses. Spotlighting these businesses as well as giving business owners a positive place to learn more about business were the objectives.

As the summit has grown education still plays a major role as well as enhancing the business climate in the Castle Country region. The summit began with the chairman of the economic council, Jo Sansevero welcoming everyone to the event. She said the breakfast keynote speaker Scott Hirschi was involved in the What's Up Down South," economic summit which the Castle Country economic summit is patterned after. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," said Sansevero.

Hirschi is the economic development director for Washington County. He began by complimenting Carbon County on the wonderful new event center which will serve both counties for many years. Hirschi thought back to the growth St. George has seen in these last years. He was reading an old newspaper from 1968 which said St. George had 23 new homes built that year and the newspaper article said they were enjoying a construction boom. Last year 3,000 homes were built in St. George. Every day one family moves into St. George. Before that time in 1968, Hirschi reported St. George had seen very little growth for the 100 years prior. Many great opportunities have come to St. George, four major elements have played a part these last four decades.

Smart management with elected and appointed officials and an aggressive private sector. Smart planning and economic planning have played a part in the success of the area along with market opportunity and looking for where the market is going, not where it's at right now. Dixie was the right place at the right time and many took advantage of the marketing opportunities available. In the 70s the private sector put St. George on the map with millions spent to promote recreational and residential living. Bloomington and Green Valley along with Sun River, which caters to the 55 and older crowd, put St. George to the forefront in development and promotion.

This bull elk is the special attraction at the Castle Valley Ranch summit dinner.

One event that also brings national attention to St. George is the marathon which fills every motel room in St. George and Cedar City.

Some of the success of St. George has just been dumb luck. "I would pick luck over skill. In any case no amount of smart planning can outweigh the advantage of dumb luck. The population of St. George has doubled in the 11 years I have been the economic director.

"When the first economic summit was held in Emery County four years ago the unemployment rate in the county was 14 percent, it is now 3 percent. Smart management capitalizes on market opportunity.

"You need a strategic plan to know where you're going. Even poor goals accomplished are better than no goals. Write down your goals. Our strategic plan in St. George included: Increasing overall support for entrepreneurism; increase the overall level of support essential for the creation of growth and high growth entrepreneurial businesses.

"Increase the overall number of talented entrepreneurs capable of leading growth and high growth businesses. Effectively increase the capabilities of regional entrepreneurs to create and lead growth and high growth businesses. Coordinate and integrate the delivery of support services for entrepreneurs and eliminate fragmentation and overlap among support providers.

"Cultivate the creation of new growth and high growth business opportunities that are the combined product of the collaboration among entrepreneurs, mentors, support providers and investors. Establish a committed group of local investors organized, accessible, capable and interested in investing in local businesses at all stages of their development. Cultivate the interest and involvement of regional, state and national funding resources capable of investing in promising growth and high growth regional businesses.

"Invite the community into your planning processes. Identify the core values the residents of the county say are important to them. Expand on those annually as you review the plan.

Linda Anderson, left, displays her ceramic creations at the Castle Valley economic summit.

"You can't be all things to all people. A value added business adds value to a product or service market. We looked outside the county and targeted those kinds of businesses to add a fresh flow of dollars into our community. Grow the size of the pie so there are more pieces of the pie to spread. Companies need a higher skill level for workers. Higher wages are a challenge in Utah. We tried to attract value added companies that were not competing with established local businesses," said Hirschi.

Hirschi said one third of the stimulating entrepreneurial growth has been in the growth itself; home furnishings, and other related industries. He likened their growth economy to the energy economy in the Castle Country area. "Washington County can't grow forever. A growth economy is not sustainable for us," said Hirschi.

"In the last 10 years, 75,000 new people have moved to Dixie and they want it to stay the same. I don't personally agree with that. I will take the challenges of growth over no growth. Half of the population in Washington County has 10 years or less experience there.

"It is getting more and more difficult to get public acceptance of growth related developments. Eventually we will run out of land, water or political will for more growth. Now is the time to stimulate new technology based economy and add a new component. When we first started the "What's up down South economic summit, 11 years ago. We had 175 attendees. Now we have 1,000 attendees and those waiting in line for booth space. It's held the second Wednesday in January and I hope all of you can attend," said Hirschi.

Sansevero said each year as they visited Utah from California, they were amazed at the growth of St. George.

Part II of the economic summit in the Oct. 9 issue.

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