Prisons. Toxic-waste dumps. Nuclear-waste disposal facilities. They are the kinds of industries most Utah communities don't want in their back yards.
Unless you live in rural Utah."There is a tremendous sense of desperation in rural Utah. Rural Utah wants jobs, and they want the jobs no one else wants," said Wes Curtis, executive director of the Emery County Housing Authority. "The type of thing no one wants, we're fighting for, clamoring for."
Speaking Tuesday to the Coalition for Utah's Future/Project 2000 Future's Forum on the economic issues of rural Utah, Curtis said unemployment in rural communities is double that of the state's urban areas.
While layoffs may affect an urban economy, job loss in small communities can be financially and emotionally devastating."What we're seeing is suffering on the part of very good friends and relatives, and we take it very personally," he said. By comparison, he added, few urban dwellers have the same kind of relationship with their neighbors.
Harold Hiske, dean of the School of Business, Technology and Communications at Southern Utah University, said people in rural Utah "are self-reliant people. They have to be. They've struggled through a lot of hardships, but they don't complain a lot."
Despite their pioneer spirit, Hiske said rural communities suffer most from a lack of leadership and infrastructure as well as from isolation.
Developing leadership is paramount, said Hiske, explaining that he has served eight years on the Cedar City Council and yet considers himself a government "novice."
Many people elected to leadership positions in rural communities have little time to research issues, pursue other reading and listen to news reports. "Their vision is blurred by a lack of understanding of trends," Hiske said.
Larry Sowers, a Milford city councilman, editor of the Dodge City News and a mining operation manager, said the only reason the new state prison was built in a rural community was that the urban cities did not want it.
"It was like throwing a bone to a bunch of dogs that hadn't eaten in a week," he said.
But Sowers said much of rural Utah's problems stem from the fact that state and federal government officials - both elected and appointed - seldom visit the state's small, isolated communities.
"For all intents and purposes, we're ignored out there. We (Milford) haven't had a visit from a state legislator or state official in five years," Sowers said.
Michael Zimmerman, Utah Supreme Court justice and secretary of the forum, said rural Utahns have more allies in the Legislature than they may suspect. Many of the legislators were reared in small towns and are aware of their concerns, he said. Rural leaders must work together to lobby issues of common concern to the oil-field worker in Vernal as well as the farmer in Hyrum.
"You've got a lot of people up here whose sentiments are in rural Utah. You've got more than nine votes out there," he said.