Can state officials generate some ideas to help the sagging Uintah Basin economy?

They believe they can and will hold some meetings in the next few weeks to examine how they can help an energy-rich area hit hard by the lower worldwide oil prices that make it economically unfeasible to produce petroleum.At the request of Uintah Basin economic development organizations, state officials went to the basin to discuss local economic development plans and how state officials can be of assistance in achieving the goals.

The purpose of the meeting was to improve communication and understanding between rural economic development executives and state officials to reaffirm the state's commitment to the expansion and retention of business in Utah.

High on the list of topics were tourism, improved roads and transportation, technical assistance and generation of new sources of capital.

There is no questions the area is rich in oil, tar sands, oil shale and other energy resources, but lower oil prices led to a drastic reduction in energy production and a high unemployment rate, officials said.

"This why the state is so concerned about the economic well-being of the Uintah Basin," said Lynn Blake, director of the state's business development program. "There is great hope on the horizon with the diversification of potential uses for the human and natural resources of the Uintah Basin. Our meetings were an important step forward in the process of finding solutions."