10 years of discovering potential in Coalville
September 29, 2009
Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt will have lived in town 10 years this Thursday. He chose North Summit for two reasons: its rural nature and its potential to support a new business. He still believes those are the recipe for success as he spends this week watching the fresh paving of Main Street
Long-time Coalville businessmen Spug and Jim Blonquist, owners of Summit Furniture and Mercantile, suggested Monday the Main Street renovation is the beginning of a new era for the town.
"It’ll be nice to see businesses in some of these empty buildings," Jim said.
"Coalville City must see some interest in investing in itself," Spug added. "Our family has been here 100 years and local support is needed for local businesses. If they do, a lot of people can make it here."
Underlying the Blonquists’ comments is a belief that something had to happen before successful businesses will join the tax base of this isolated county seat squeezed between Echo Reservoir and Hoytsville’s hay fields.
Schmidt said he doesn’t believe it’s the role of the city to define for people what those "ifs" are, but he’s dedicated to making them happen anyway.
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"It’s a pretty neat little town with unlimited potential. I believe that more today than when I moved here," he said.
Its isolation is not only part of its charm, he explained, it is its formula for success. Coalville is currently a bedroom community for Evanston, Ogden, Morgan, Park City, Salt Lake City and Heber. It’s 45 minutes or less to all those cities and there’s plenty of room for more people who’d like to gaze at cliffs instead of concrete.
His wife drives to the University of Utah every day and has the same commute (some days shorter) than coworkers in Davis County because of traffic. She sees changing leaves while they stare at brake lights.
Businesses that have been successful in Coalville, like Geary Construction, Flare Construction, Hi Uinta Taxidermy and his own Humpty Dumpsters, are able to offer services needed by those same six communities, he said.
The beautification of Main Street has been a dream come to fruition, Schmidt said, but it’s also part of a larger plan to get people to take another look at Coalville, and to look at investing in it.
Besides applying for grants to pay for the beautification, he said he’s also worked tirelessly to resolve the legal disputes that have held up the industrial park above the cemetery on Chalk Creek Road. The name of the road betrays the master plan, but currently Flair is the only industry parked there. That will change, Schmidt said.
"That may become, more so than Main Street, the main tax base for us," he said.
Small, medium or large businesses welding, building or making cardboard he doesn’t care. They’d all be welcome.
"The location is pretty good, it just hasn’t realized its potential yet," he added.
He’d also like to see more sit-down restaurants in Coalville. I-80 is one of the busiest roads in the nation and there’s no reason his city can’t get more drivers to stop, eat and buy gas.
To entice an established eatery (he said Cracker Barrel is at the top of his wish list) Coalville may need to have a higher head count.
"The growth rate is lower than inflation; the economy of this city goes backward," he said.
That’s why he’s fully supportive of a 97-home project already underway above the industrial park in the north-east part of town.
Rich Wolper said the first home in his Cedar Heights development could be done as soon as Christmas. He envisions it as a working person’s neighborhood. Wolper said he’ll build the homes just as fast as he sells them.
"I think it’s a start," Schmidt said.
The Mayor admitted not everyone in Coalville wants to see it get bigger, but change is inevitable, he argued. You can be run over by it or you can control it and put it to use, he said. He doesn’t want to see the population double or triple anytime soon, but more rooftops will lead to more success for existing services and will make the town more attractive to outside businesses.
"There are not too many objections to it; people realize the need for some growth," he said.
Another step to recovery that some are clamoring for and others will find hard to swallow is demolition. Coalville has its historic places that need to be preserved, but many buildings just need to be torn down and built on top of, he said.
Schmidt made clear he doesn’t have a specific vision. There are plenty of success stories already, he said. Instead, he has in mind steps that need to be completed for the city to quit being a well-kept secret.
"I’m a passionate advocate for my community. I’m getting things done and things are happening," he said.