Following months of little contact and an unclear direction, the Eastern Summit County Business Alliance may be about die. The organization, which held its first meetings nine months ago, was created with the help of the county to support the rurally-based businesses outside of the Snyderville Basin.
Initial meetings showed a strong support for the concept, drawing roughly two dozen business owners in Kamas and Coalville in late June with the hopes of offering a unified voice to the 850 or more businesses based the eastern portion of the county. In comparison to the number of business organizations already in the Park City and the Snyderville Basin area, Eastern Summit County businesses, which are largely based in the agricultural- and industrial-based industries, argued that the tourism economy of the West was overshadowing the economic potential in the East.
So the question nags: What happened?
"It has been a struggle getting people to get involved," said Carsten Mortensen, one of the Eastern Summit County Business Alliance founders and a board member, as well as the owner of the Coalville-based company Utelite. " We were hoping to get something like the Park City Chamber/Bureau over here, but we have not had a whole bunch of input. It is about ready to die."
"The board has tried to get others involved," he added. "There are several people from the first meetings who are on our mailing list, but when we send out notifications, no one sends anything back."
The notifications sent out by the group have centered on only one point: county council and planning meetings. Since those first meetings, a board was formed by the founders of the group, but the direction of the organization remains unclear, with nearly all contact to interested business owners those who attended the first meetings inviting them to public meetings revolving around building and tax code issues.
"I was at the meetings early on," said Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt. "I haven't heard about a meeting for six months or more, nothing."
"I'm not sure why it has not succeeded," he added. "I can't put a finger on the problem. I do believe that to have an alliance a situation where a group represents the people on the East Side is a valuable asset to the business owners here. Basically, a healthy business community means a healthier community overall."
The Eastern Summit County Business Alliance started as an action item nearly two years 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 and held preliminary meetings to survey local interest.
"It seems that (the organization) has become a tool to promote political agendas, not a tool to promote an economic agenda," said Pete Nixon a Coalville resident and owner of Apogee Consultants who attended meetings in June. " I was hugely disappointed. There really needs to be a common voice for businesses and a need for more economic diversity on the East Side."
"I'm disappointed," he added, "and the organization has itself to blame for its problems. A huge opportunity has been lost, to finally have the County Council backing the idea of the East Side organizing itself, and we blew it."
Summit County helped facilitate the first steps, advertising the meetings and paying for mailers sent out to East Side businesses, but stepped back from the picture when the board was formed. The board was quickly formed without input from those on the mailing list, by the founders who represented larger businesses in the area such as Utelite and Geary Construction. Dues were never collected, and bylaws have yet to be written.
"New organizations I think always have a challenge in defining their mission," said Summit County Economic Development Specialist Alison Weyher, who helped establish the group initially. "Generally, there is a kind of period of clarifying the vision for organizations. I think that may be where they are because every organization evolves, and I hope that is what is going on. I know I have not been involved for months now."
"The county was involved initially to help facilitate a voice for the Eastern Summit County business community," she added. "Once the organization got together and they had a chair and a board of directors, I felt it was important to let them go on their own without county interference."