Emery County Economic Development Director Mike McCandless gave an economic update to the economic development council and the Emery County Commission recently. He reported there are a lot of agencies doing economic development work in the county. One of his goals is coordinating efforts between the various agencies working on economic development. Agencies include the Division of Workforce Services, Utah State Extension Services, the applied technology college and others. "There are a large number of people providing services. We need to coordinate efforts and formalize relationships. The small business development council is receiving more grant money and we are working towards having a SBDC person in the county building two days a week to help with grant applications and provide needed information. There is money budgeted from the federal government for Emery County and we will be focusing effort, money and time in seeing that our local businesses know what's available. We are excited about this opportunity," said McCandless.
He said they have been working with the targeted industries task force to identify the needs of the businesses in the area of mining and health care. "There is currently a shortage of nurses. We're 80-90 percent sure that Moab will be getting a new hospital and 60 percent sure that Blanding will. We are not meeting the needs today in health care and we need to look at ways to fill those needs.
"We also have a need for qualified miners and we are working with the applied technology college on a 100 hour course for new miners with classes on hydraulics, electrical and human resources. Applicants are in need of basic work skills like arriving on time to work and other skills," said McCandless.
McCandless reported that the governor's rural partnership has also identified similar goals in working with cluster industries and having suppliers for local industries available locally.
McCandless said a big issue for locally owned businesses is health care and finding affortable health care for small businesses.
Opportunities also exist for tourism involving the Backcountry Pilot's Association. There are 20 backcountry air strips in Carbon and Emery counties. McCandless stressed the need to take advantage of these opportunities. Mexican Mountain is a popular airstrip with planes flying in and out frequently. "We need to turn these opportunities into economic advantage," he said.
Other opportunities mentioned were the people who use Joe's Valley for ice climbing and the Swell for bouldering activities. The people are there using Joe's Valley and the lodge and marina are closed during this time of year. "There's a group of people here ready to spend money and we need to make the ties and the connections to expand these activities and get some money from people visiting here."
McCandless also mentioned that he is interested in helping the communities develop play areas close to the cities where ATVs can be ridden. He thinks this could be a big asset and help to lower damage to the desert.
Green River is planning an economic development summit in to be held in Green River in late February or early March. Theyare looking for ways to capitilize on their assets.
One idea McCandless said he has received from Sharon Earl of the Emery County Chamber of Commerce is to help each business in the county to hire a new employee this year. McCandless will spend time going to each business to evaluate what's needed to help the businesses within the county to grow.
There are five economic development bills which will appear at the legislature this year and the McCandless is watching them closely. One of them deals with promoting tourism outside the state.
The states surrounding Utah far outspend it in advertising dollars to attract tourists to the state.
Concern for the management of Range Creek and what will happen to the artifacts recovered from there was also discussed.
McCandless thinks the county should use Range Creek as an opportunity for economic development and to bring about some long term benefits for the county.
Commissioner Ira Hatch would like to see the two museums in the county accredited so they could house artifacts and if there is expansion money available then the county museums should be considered in the process.
McCandless reported there is a call center project coming to the county incubator building in April.