A program designed to boost economic development in rural Utah is apparently working, according to an official overseeing the program.

The legislation creating the Rural Fast Track Program passed the Utah Legislature in early 2007. Beverly Evans, director of the Utah Office of Rural Development, said the program now has 16 companies that have received Industrial Assistance Fund grants to help them hire employees or otherwise grow their businesses.

Approved companies can get up to $50,000 under the program to help develop their businesses, or they can get $1,000 to $1,500 per created job, depending on how much over the county average annual wage the job pays. The businesses must have been in Utah at least two years, have at least two employees and be in counties with populations of less than 30,000 people who have an average county household income of less than $60,000.

The 16 program approvals could lead to 83 total new jobs — a far cry from much-publicized corporations recruited for Wasatch Front operations, but nonetheless key to rural areas of the state, Evans said.

"Let me tell you, four or five jobs make a difference in some of these rural companies, and they have been able to receive some assistance to expand their businesses," she told the Governor's Office of Economic Development Board last week.

For Applied Composite Technology, a prosthetic-limb manufacturing company in Gunnison, Sanpete County, the program could lead to hiring 12 more employees.

"In a rural community, each and every new job allows a family to stay in this area instead of having to move to the city and more populated areas," Shawn Crane, who is in charge of human resources, purchasing and information technology for ACT, said in a prepared statement.

B.W. Bowmar Co., a machine-shop manufacturing company in Escalante, Garfield County, is using program funds to upgrade to three-phase power. That is expected to make the company's electrical use more efficient and provide enough electricity to allow the company to quadruple its potential production capacity and hire two more full-time employees.

Talon Resources, an engineering, consulting and surveying company in Huntington, Emery County, expects to hire 11 new full-time employees from Emery and Carbon counties.

"We feel that we will be able to keep a small segment of our young workers home," Allen Childs, the company's president, said in a prepared statement. "They can start their careers and not have to move away from the county they call home. We will be able to provide jobs that will provide employees with growth potential and a higher-than-average county wage."

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