CEDAR CITY — Sometimes in order to make a big impact, people have to start small. To that end, a southern Utah town’s business community has taken on the challenge of reducing unemployment — one job at a time.
In an effort to spur added economic growth in Iron County, the Cedar City Area Chamber of Commerce has launched a Hire 1 More initiative. The focus of this initiative is to encourage businesses in the community to look for ways they can create one more full-time position within their organization.
“Our goal is to decrease unemployment in our community and put people back to work or help them find more gainful employment,” said Scott Jolley, president and CEO of the Cedar City Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve encouraged each business in Cedar (City) to look within their budget … look at what one more employee could bring to the table and the benefits of having one more employee and create one new position.”
He said 160 new positions have been filled in Iron County since May 1.
"We invite and challenge all Iron County businesses to participate in this initiative and help put our economy back on track," Jolley said, adding that the impact would be "tremendous" with 2,000 businesses in the community.
Jolley noted that the initiative could be implemented statewide, and his organization is encouraging other chambers of commerce to endorse the program.
Additionally, the state Department of Workforce Services is offering incentives to companies that qualify to participate in the program, including wage subsidies of up to $2,000 per eligible participant, reimbursement to employers to offset training costs, up to 50 percent of wages reimbursed during training, and DWS will assist in screening applicants.
Some employers could also qualify for Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits for hiring individuals in targeted groups.
“It’s really a collaborative effort to enhance job growth,” he said. “We feel like this is our way to do more not only in our community, but also our state.”
Currently, Utah’s unemployment rate is at 6 percent, while the national jobless rate is at 8.2 percent. Approximately 32,000 jobs were added to the state economy in June.
Last January, Utah business leaders announced a 10-point, private-sector plan to create 150,000 new jobs over the next five years. And in September, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert created a blue-ribbon panel — the Governor's Economic Development Coordinating Council — which was asked to develop a plan that would empower the private sector to hire 100,000 Utahns in 1,000 days.
"This is an ambitious goal," Herbert said. "But I'm confident … that we can achieve that goal."
At the time, Herbert said that the state's economy was in dire need of an employment infusion and reaching the goal would put the state on firm economic footing.
Jolley said this latest initiative is meant to complement those previous plans.
“This is an example of a partnership that's really working with the private sector, public sector and chamber of commerce,” said DWS spokesman Curt Stewart. “We would encourage all communities to replicate this effort to support the governor's 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days initiative.”
Jolley said the program would be a success if it can help individuals and families back into the workforce.
“Because that’s where (our economy) is going to thrive,” he said.