In Eastern Summit County, businesses may soon have a new platform to address their concerns and future goals.
Business leaders are taking their first, fledgling steps toward creating a new organization to represent the rural communities in the area, the Eastern Summit County Business Alliance, with hopes that it will offer a unified voice among the 850 or more businesses based the eastern portion of the county.
With a number of business organizations already in the Park City and the Snyderville Basin area, Eastern Summit County businesses, which are largely based in the agriculture and industrial industries, are arguing that the tourism economy of the West overshadows the economic potential in the East.
"The West Side has a Chamber of Commerce, a business alliance in Kimball Junction," said Carsten Mortensen, one of the Eastern Summit County Business Alliance founders and owner of the Coalville-based company Utelite. "They've got all kind of groups. We're left sitting over here thinking 'Gosh, I wish I had a little more horsepower when I go into county meetings.'"
"We want to be able to tell the county when they're doing a good job," he added, " but in some cases, they don't quite understand the damage they can do to us with some of the decisions they make."
The Eastern Summit County Business Alliance started as an action item more than a year ago in a Summit County Economic Task Force Committee, a group created by the county council and made up of county officials and community members. Four members of the task force all of whom are active members of the business community in Eastern Summit County started the business alliance last month, holding preliminary meetings to survey local interest starting last week.
"I grew up here," said Matthew Weller of All West Communications, a member of the alliance. "I know there are opportunities on the East Side that the Snyderville Basin just doesn't have because it grew so fast."
Interested business owners trickled into the North Summit High School Auditorium Wednesday night to learn more. Mortensen alongside DeAnn Geary, a co-founder and owner of Geary Construction, introduced the idea to the dozen or more whose curiosity was piqued when they learned a business alliance was forming.
"If you go to the city or county as an individual they are respectful and they will listen to you," Geary said, "but if we go in as a business alliance as many businesses as we can gather that have the same issue and believe we're being guided in the wrong direction there is more clout in numbers.
"We know that our needs are different here on the East Side that's why we wanted to separate ourselves as a business alliance."
The county originally suggested more eastern businesses join the Park City Chamber/Bureau, but Geary countered, saying that 90 percent of the chamber's emphasis was on tourism, not the rural economic issues of the eastern part of the county. From land use issues to permitting to taxes, one policy could affect the two parts of the county differently, Geary added.
But getting the organization off the ground will come with its share of challenges, from creating subcommittees to potentially broadening the scope of the organization beyond zoning and tax issues. Lori Hammond, a CPA in Coalville, said she is still waiting to see what happens with the organization.
"I'm not sure what direction they are trying to go," Hammond said. " I am staying tuned. I do think there is a need for this, that there is an East Side with very different needs from the West Side."
Pete Nixon, a fellow Coalville resident and owner of Apogee Consultants, said he also believes an association for the East Side was needed, but that he plans to step up and help guide the organization.
"One of the reasons (the East Side) is not really participating in the discussions that need to take place so we have a county-wide economic development is that we're not organized," Nixon said. "We don't speak with one voice.
" I think we need to expand so we have this broader range of interests so it can get off on the right foot," Nixon added. "I want this to be an engine for economic development on the East Side.
For now, the alliance is working out the kinks, fleshing out a mission statement, trying to find a direction that will incorporate a number of perspectives from incoming members.
Following Wednesday night's meeting, the alliance plans to form a steering committee made up of the four original founders along with a handful of other business members interested in forming a more official alliance. Mortensen hopes to file the group for nonprofit status, which would mean the organization would need to appoint a volunteer board as well as administrative roles.
For more information or to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.