GARDEN CITY, Rich County — This small vacationers' town on the shores of Bear Lake could soon see a big change.
Plans for a $42 million resort at Bear Lake — which will include condos, a hotel and retail and business space — were unveiled Thursday.
Waters Edge Resort will include an 84-room full service hotel, 70 privately owned condominiums, and 40,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space plus a 5,000 square foot conference facility.
"That's why we're doing better than any state in America,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who joined local leaders for the announcement. “The opportunity of risk, reward that we applaud ... We like the entrepreneur."
And in this case, the entrepreneurs are from Vietnam.
"Because in Utah, the economy is very good, but the lifestyle is very affordable right now,” said investor Hai Huynh. He lives in South Jordan, but many of his business partners who are investing big money are in Vietnam.
"They don't know where Utah is,” Huynh said. “People in Vietnam only know Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York.”
The state of Utah recently opened up those opportunities to foreign investors through a special visa. Garden City Mayor John Spuhler said that could lead to some positive growth in this town of less than 600.
"It's been referred to as the Caribbean of the Rockies forever because of the crystal-blue water,” Spuhler said. “So people want that, and I think more and more people are understanding that it's a reasonably priced vacation.”
He said the resort will be good for the business community and will strengthen its economy as well. The project will create an estimated 400 jobs.
The resort will be right along the beach, about a block south of Highway 89. Developers said the whole idea is that people can get everything they need for their vacation there and then take a short walk over to the center of town.
But for those who already know business in Garden City, there’s concern that big business could face some small town problems.
"I tell everybody that Bear Lake is a seasonal place,” said Renee LaBeau, who has been running LaBeau's Drive In for more than 30 years. “We can only stay open here about five months."
The biggest months are July and August.
She has tried staying open all year, but “we’ve never been able to do it, and I’ve been here 31 years,” she said.
Aside from the crystal-blue water, Bear Lake has become known for those raspberry shakes. LaBeau said her business started that icy tradition.
“About everybody does them now,” she said laughing. “Everybody has the famous raspberry shake.”
While the resort's still at least three years to completion, LaBeau said she hoped it will succeed, since more business could be good news for everyone.
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