Carbon communities 'ahead of the game' for economic advance
For Delynn Fielding the move from being the Economic Development Director for Carbon County, which was basically a one man operation, and moving into a complicated state agency was a big transition. As he showed slides at the Business Expansion and Retention meeting last Thursday, he showed a slide that designated his assigned spot.
"That's where my desk is," he said as he pointed to a three section graph with many multiples to it.
He also said that the being in the Governor's Office for Economic Development (GOED) was exciting and very driven. He was in a meeting one day and the director of the department asked everyone if they had their cards. Everyone pulled them out of their pockets and purses.
Those cards are what the department lives by according to Fielding. The cards, which are laminated, have written on them the four principles that the department is living by.
Strengthen and grow existing Utah businesses, both urban and rural;
Increase innovation, entrepreneurship and investment;
Increase national and international business;
Prioritize education to develop the workforce of the future.
These were goals laid down by Governor Gary Herbert a few years ago and the agency takes them to heart.
But while the agency is complicated and with every county in the state to deal with, he has discovered something else, something he didn't know before.
"Do you know how good you are?" he asked as he showed other slides to the audience. "You are ahead of the game, You are where a lot of these counties wish they could be. Now you need to take advantage of it."
What he was talking about was cooperation and organization. Carbon and Emery Counties have been working on for a number of years; the BEAR program. It helps rural counties to grow business from within.
"We started this program because we realized that we weren't probably going to get any big major businesses moving here," said Fielding. "And because of that this area is ahead of the game."
People who think about Carbon County's future economically often think in one of two directions. In one thought process they think the future looks bleak because of the "war on coal" and how with the use of coal being down and sagging every year that the communities here are just going to dry up and blow away.
The other thought some have is that if the area can just land that one big employer (such as a Procter and Gamble plant or an Adobe development center) it would change everything.
Both these extremes are somewhat unlikely. Fielding pointed out that while the impact on coal production due to plants like IPP near Delta changing over to gas powered electrical generation in a few years certainly will have an effect on those that produce coal, he also said that there are other possibilities for local growth, many of them being in the energy arena surrounding such things as oil production/loadouts and coal/liquid fuel conversion.
As for the large employer just moving in and changing everything all at once?
"Just ask Tami (Ursenbach, the present Economic Director) because she just got a request for proposal from the state the other day on a business that wants to come to Utah," he said. "What did it say, TAmi?" he asked as she sat listening.
She said the RFP was for information only about cities along the Wasatch Front.
"The point is that those kinds of companies want things like being a half hour from a major airport or within 15 minutes of a freeway," he stated. "The I-15 corridor is where they want to be. They are filling up in some parts of the Wasatch Front so now they are moving into Cache County and down near Nephi."
With that information, which could be disconcerting to local boosters, he turned to what is going on in the state and where Carbon and Emery stand amongst rural economies and planning.
"First of all the state as a whole has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the country," he stated, pointing out that some states like North Dakota (which now has the lowest rate) have things going on in special areas. For North Dakota it is the oil boom. But then he talked about diverse economies.
"Utah has a very diverse economy," he stated, saying that meant that the state is really spread out across the spectrum as far as the kinds of industries and businesses it has. Utah has six strategic industry clusters which are inclusive of almost 179,000 jobs. Those sectors include software development and production (51,451 jobs), financial services (47,320 jobs), aerospace and defense (28,876 jobs), life sciences (26,499 jobs) energy (18,611 jobs) and outdoor (6,208 jobs).
But with that being known, and knowing that for the area to grow it will have to come from within, Fielding said that Castle Country has a huge leap on everyone else.
"We came up with a formula for success and this area has it," said Fielding. The formula he put forth is C2 + E2 = Success. That means that coordination and collaboration plus efficiency and effectiveness will lead to good things. He then pulled up a chart that showed where the rural counties in the state are on this formula. Carbon is presently five times higher on receiving fast track grants in the state for business development. And with the right tool (which is BEAR) Carbon and Emery have half the money that has been granted in the state.
In fact, according to Fielding and his statistics the Carbon/Emery area leads everyone in all categories when it comes to BEAR figures.
"The right building blocks are here," said Fielding. "What direction you want to go with this is up to you."
He complimented the fact that the BEAR program has been so successful in almost every way. Seeing the overall picture across the state, he said has really made him realize how well things have been done here.
"I have one county where we just got to the point where the two major towns would finally come into one room and talk to each other," he stated. "Now they are starting to cooperate with each other."
He pointed out that the state is working on a lot of initiatives to make the dream of Utah being the absolute best state to do and bring business to a reality. There is a lot of work being done to train people to secure technical training and the STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) work being done in schools around the state will help all of that.
He also pointed out that the Outdoor Recreation office that is part of GOED is fairly new and that it is zooming right along to get growth in those industries.
"One of the things the director of that office pointed out to me is that all these trails everyone is developing to attract tourism should have a business plan behind them," he stated.
His final point concerned the areas willingness to take the steps to move ahead. He said everything is there, Castle Country is ahead of the curve, now the area just needs to take the steps to move ahead.
"As I used to say when I worked here 'We have met the enemy and he is us,'" concluded Fielding.