Rural Utah hits the spotlight for job growth

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has begun a rural jobs tour as part of a plan to create 25,000 jobs in counties outside the Wasatch Front over the next four years.

“I will not rest until all 29 counties experience the same economic success,” Herbert said in a press release. “I challenge Utah businesses from across the state to come together. Utahns are hardworking and creative, and by working together we can find innovative solutions.”

Unemployment in Utah stands at 3.4 percent, which is 1 percentage point lower than the national average according to the Department of Workforce Services. However, some counties, such as San Juan County, Wayne County and Garfield County, have unemployment rates higher than 7.5 percent.

As part of the governor’s initiative, the “25k Jobs Tour” is stopping in every Utah county outside the Wasatch Front for a half-day of food, networking and activities, according to the press release. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is representing the governor on the tour and is partnering with World Trade Center Utah, a non-profit organization.

World Trade Center Utah President Derek Miller said the tour is not only raising awareness of resources available to Utahns, but also helping the resource providers to be familiar with rural Utah. He said the tour is meant to be “a two-way street.”

“When we live along the Wasatch Front, we tend to forget about the rest of the state that’s out there,” Miller said. “It’s been really good to take all of these resources to these rural communities, to actually meet these people, shake their hands, get to know them one-on-one and to build a relationship.”

Miller said each county has its own unique challenges, and the governor wants the tour to lead to a locally driven effort, in which local officials can tailor resources in a way that works best to boost jobs in their counties.

“The most important thing that will come out of this job tour is the beginning of that conversation and working with local officials to help understand what they want to do, what their plan is and what their strategy is and how the resources can support them,” Miller said.

Cache County was one of the first counties visited.

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Michael Parker with the Salt Lake Chamber and Nate McDonald with the Department of Workforce Services share information with an attendee during the Morgan County tour stop. (FDM Media)

Cache County has the lowest unemployment rate in Utah, according to the Department of Workforce Services, but Cache Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Emile said the event was still a “very valuable activity” for her community. Rather than a focus on unemployment, “the focus in Cache Valley was on putting the right people in the right jobs and helping our businesses find employees,” Emile said.

“It was more of an awareness of how to train future employees who are coming along and get them into businesses that are already projecting growth,” Emile said.

Mitch Zundel, director of Box Elder County Economic Development, said the tour was productive in his area. Zundel said his county used the event as an opportunity to hold a job fair with local companies. Emile and Zundel said about 150 people attended the event in their counties, and Zundel said about half of those were job seekers.

“The energy in the room was what got me mostly excited,” Zundel said. “You start hearing some of these stories where people were looking at getting job interviews all the way to businesses making connections with other businesses.”

The next stop on the 25k Jobs Tour will be Wasatch County and Toole County on Sept. 6 For more information about the tour and its schedule, visit 25kjobs.com.