Summit County has $27,500 in its pocket, and county officials are looking to spend on business.
As part of a statewide initiative to boost economic development in Utah's rural counties, the Governor's Office of Economic Development distributed one-time grant funding to county economic development offices, Business Resource Centers and Small Business Development Centers, under the Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) program. The intent of BEAR grants is to support business growth and expansion, job creation and an increased effort to diversify.
Assistant County Manager Anita Lewis and Alison Weyher, the Economic Development Specialist with Summit County, returned from a Utah Alliance conference this week where implementing the BEAR grant program was a point of discussion. The two hope to work out the "nuts and bolts to start interviews" and begin to implement the first part of the BEAR program next week, Weyher said. The county will start by randomly surveying 200 businesses throughout Summit County to determine what types of services the county offers and what needs local businesses might report.
"We've learned a little bit more about how state wants the interview done and the questions we will need to ask," Weyher said. "There is a whole process the state has in place for the program and once we get this information back to the state, we can begin to solve problems so business can continue to grow."
According to the GOED website, funds may be used for surveys that are entered into a GOED-approved BEAR software program, business training and skill development with special emphasis on training in the areas of marketing, e-commerce, social media, and small business management, technical assistance to businesses, market research, training and strategy development and marketing and outreach to rural businesses.
"Right now, we are going out and performing interviews," Lewis said. "Through those interviews, we will be able to understand what services we may want to offer."
A majority of the funding awarded to the county will go toward business interviews to determine the needs in the county, but $5,000 is earmarked to provide free training to businesses.
As a key component of the county's general plan, Lewis plans to look at diversification among businesses, noting that while tourism is a major advantage to residents, the county needs more than a single industry to support its economic development.
"I think networking with businesses is going to give us such an advantage," Lewis said. "The county will get to know businesses on a one-on-one basis, get to know all the different services provided to county through the business. This will give us a better understanding of the services we have, the services we are lacking and what we may need to recruit.
"It's a win-win for both the county and businesses."