Governor encourages rural Utah to do more, speaks at 30th annual Rural Summit
By Holly Coombs and Larissa Beatty
Iron County Today
In a two-day event, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox spoke to many southern Utah business and city leaders an encouraged them to come up with solutions to assist in economy and job improvement and help him improve the state.
Herbert and Cox also presented 25K Jobs Initiative during the event. Cox led the push to create an additional 25,000 jobs in communities outside of the Wasatch Front over the next four years.
Herbert said while, the plan was to just present the 25,000-job campaign, he felt inspired to talk more.
While northern Utah’s economy has prospered in recent years, not all counties are sharing in the success – especially in the rural communities. Unemployment rates in Duchesne, Garfield and Wayne counties are at 8 to 9 percent.
“We need to do something,” Herbert said. “Let’s not just talk about it.”
He said there is a gap between urban and rural communities with much diversity within the job market as well.
“Each (place) has their unique challenges,” Herbert said. “There is a power in proximity.”
While Utah has the number one economy in the country, it is still struggling, he said.
“We’re there to listen and to help,” Herbert said as he encouraged those in the room to help him find solutions to the problems.
He urged communities to diversify and adapt to changing markets. Many rural communities have suffered due to declines in agriculture and the coal industry.
“We have all of our economic eggs in a one or two-basket contained,” Herbert said. “We need to find ways to adapt to the changing market out there and find a pathway to success.”
Cox, who still lives in the 1,000-person town of Fairview, pointed to Utah Shakespeare Festival founder Fred Adams as the prime example of someone who achieved a seemingly “insane” goal of opening a world-famous event in what was then considered to be the “middle of nowhere.”
Because of Adams’ idea, people come from all over the world to celebrate what is one of the top five Shakespeare festivals in the entire world in Cedar City, Utah.
“It should not be here,” Cox said. “But here it is because one guy was a little crazy and worked his guts out and convinced other people that it could be done.”