Many rural Utah towns never will succeed unless they develop and project a positive attitude and find leaders who can make things happen.
This is one of five policy issues outlined in Utah's Rural Development Strategy now in the hands of the Utah Economic Development Board."Economic success in rural Utah will primarily be determined at the local level and each community has unique assets, which can provide the foundation for a prosperous economy," the study said, and leadership is the most important factor in the success or failure of rural economic development efforts.
The strategy was prepared by the Center for Economic Competitiveness, SRI International and the Utah Division of Business and Economic Development's rural marketing office for the Western Governor's Association and Gov. Norm Bangerter's office.
In April 1988, the WGA published a report to help state officials diagnose rural economic problems caused by the emergence of a stagnant, resource-based rural economy and a growing technology and service-based urban economy. WGA commissioned SRI to conduct several regional workshops and provide technical assistance for pilot programs selected by the states.
Bangerter volunteered Utah as a site for one pilot project and the strategy summarizes the outcome of this project.
In addition to the need for good leaders to help economic expansion, the paper said, "A second challenge will be to develop programs which enhance the image rural communities have of themselves and that which they project to the rest of the world."
A second recommendation is to develop existing rural entrepreneurs and provide entrepreneurism as a viable career opportunity within the educational systems. "If rural businesses are failing, we need to identify ways to enhance the ability of our entrepreneurs to succeed. In addition, We need to identify potential entrepreneurs and help them develop sound new businesses in rural Utah."
The other recommendations call for initiating programs to enhance capital formation in rural communities, identify ways rural regions can add value to their unique resources and develop a rural infrastructure for the future.
In the state's favor, the study said local, state and federal governments made a significant investment in rural Utah's infrastructure in the last 20 years and the excess will be an asset for new industry.
The study said Utah Small Cities Inc., an existing non-profit organization dedicated to improving the rural Utah economy, should serve as the focal point to implement the recommendations.
It recommends Utah Small Cities Inc. be reorganized to include five task forces corresponding to the five policy issues. It also recommends the formation of an executive committee to perform specific functions and a major revision of the state's regional matching funds program.
The study asks for $50,000 from the Legislature to support implementation of the study findings.
As SRI International employees made their study, one of the conclusions reached was that rural Utah is no longer dependent on agriculture and is increasingly becoming less dependent on mining. It said rural Utah is predominantly dependent on government and the service sector.
Some of the other conclusions outlined in the study are as follows: - Variations between regions justify the need for regional economic development strategies.
- The average rural worker makes less today compared to workers elsewhere in the state than they did 10 years ago.
- Many rural counties are experiencing an erosion of their tax base.
- People are moving out of rural Utah.
- The rural economy seems to have bottomed out and is improving slightly.
- There is significant new business activity in rural Utah.
- Education is a critical issue in rural Utah.
- Infrastructure is something of a mixed bag in Utah because some things such as water, sewer and electrical systems were overbuilt, but the quality of highways and airports is below par.
- There is a real difference between some of the rural counties within the Metro Utah organization and those within the Utah Small Cities Inc. organization.
- Access to technology is a problem in rural Utah. Outside of Utah State University and Brigham Young University, rural Utah doesn't have a research university, the report said.