A legislative interim committee passed out a bill Wednesday designed to give companies in rural Utah a better crack at getting job-creation incentives.

The Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Interim Committee unanimously passed out the bill that creates a "fast-track" program for rural companies.

Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said the bill allows "some meaningful and significant and quick action for us to take for businesses in rural Utah to access some funds from the Industrial Assistance Fund."

Current law allows up to half of the fund to be used for businesses in "economically disadvantaged" rural areas. The new bill would allot 20 percent of the IAF for businesses in counties with at least 30,000 residents and with a median household income of less than $60,000.

Applying businesses must have been operating at least two years and have at least two employees. They could receive through the fund administrator between $1,000 and $1,500 per new job, depending on how much above the county median wage the new jobs pay. The minimum would be 110 percent of the median.

A company also could apply for up to $50,000 for "economic development opportunities" to develop a rural Utah business. Applications for more than that would be to the full GOED board for consideration.

"It's not intended to be risk capital," Perry told the committee. "It's not money that we're just giving it a go. We want it to actually have some meaningful impact on the businesses in rural Utah."

If applications are sparse, leftover funds at the end of the fiscal third quarter would be available for other loans and grants offered through the IAF.

"We think this is a really good opportunity for us to do what I think you thought we were doing all along, which is meaningful opportunities for rural Utah to have access to those funds," Perry said. "We see a great opportunity for us to grow local businesses, and it doesn't take a lot in rural Utah to create a meaningful job or a meaningful opportunity for them. This will give us the opportunity to really take care of that."

The committee's co-chairman, Rep. David Cox, R-Lehi, described the bill as "a real valuable tool in strengthening the whole state."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com