Economy strong in Summit County, but officials say there is plenty of room for growth
June 12, 2015
As he pores over the data, Jeff Jones, economic development director for Summit County, comes to the conclusion the county’s economy is strong.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for improvement — and those are the areas on which Jones’s office is focusing this summer.
Jones said two of his largest ongoing projects are economic assessments. The first is designed to discover exactly how large the need is for more affordable housing, a problem which has long plagued the county.
"We’re taking a look at what our jobs-housing imbalance is," he said. "There’s a lot of overlap between economic development and whether your employees can find housing. There are people having to commute in from outside the region because they can’t afford to find housing within Summit County. That also contributes to the transportation problems that seem to be at the focus of a lot of community discussions."
The second assessment is focused on economic development and the workforce. Jones said it explores key topics such as: the county’s overall demographic and economic conditions, industry and employment, business climate and entrepreneurship, education and workforce, sites and infrastructure, and the quality of life.
"I just think it would be a helpful tool for the County Council to have a current document that they can look at going forward," he said.
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Both assessments will be made public for review and input from residents, Jones said.
Jones said his office is also in the process of augmenting its business expansion and retention program, which is designed to improve the success of existing businesses. Instead of conducting face-to-face interviews with businesses as has been done in the program in the past, the focus is shifting to identifying three or four key sectors, such as the outdoor product industry, and developing them.
"We want to find out what we can do to help businesses grow and expand," Jones said.
Many of the county’s plans to boost economic growth are centered on the East Side of the county. For example, a new entrepreneurship class is being held in Coalville to draw participants from that area. Jones said the east side is a particular focus because the median annual household income there is about $30,000 lower than that on the West Side. But there are other factors, as well.
"We also see that a lot of the lands that have historically been utilized for agricultural pursuits are transitioning to different uses," he said. "It would be great to have more options of employment so people don’t have to commute to Park City or Salt Lake."
One way to increase the median household income — which Jones said is about $41,000 countywide — is to create higher-paying jobs. To that end, the county is in talks with three "very strong" companies looking to potentially relocate here, Jones said.
Over the last year, the county has helped bring a handful of companies to town, including 3DSIM, a 3-D printing software manufacturer, and Armada Skis Inc.
"Like anything else, it just depends on whether or not they can find the right site," he said. " But if we have companies that are paying above our average wage that are looking to come here, we have a net benefit from that, particularly if they are in industries that primarily export their goods outside the region and bring more money into the county."
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