Gillmor knows problems of rural economies
September 11, 2015
Linda Gillmor has owned a family livestock business, as well as a company that markets local agricultural products. That experience, combined with having served as director of economic development for Millard County, means she knows as well as anyone the challenges facing the rural business community in Utah.
And as the new Associate Managing Director for Urban and Rural Business Services and Director of the Office of Rural Development for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Gillmor now has the platform to help solve those challenges.
Gillmor, who took over the positions in February, said she works closely with the economic development directors of the state’s 25 rural counties, which include Summit County. One of her primary goals is to help existing businesses in rural areas grow, a phenomenon that can have a large effect on small communities.
"All kinds of data shows that business expansion and retention is the best way to help rural communities," she said. "In a small community, if you have 10,000 people and you have 150 businesses and each one of them were to hire one extra person, that’s 150 (jobs). In Salt Lake, that might not be noticed. But if Coalville were to do that, or even Park City, that would be significant. For the remote areas, any job that we can bring is a good job."
The state has several programs to help foster that growth, Gillmor said. Those include business expansion and retention (BEAR) grants — for which Summit County was recently approved — that are designed to help entire communities and rural fast track grants, which help individual businesses grow.
"That’s one of our best tools," she said of the fast track grants.
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Increasing awareness about the importance of the agriculture industry and ensuring it thrives is another key element of Gillmor’s job. Agriculture is a significant driver of many rural economies. And the wide-ranging Envision Utah poll that Gov. Gary Herbert recently commissioned shows that the industry’s products are in high demand.
"The significant majority of respondents feel like having local food is a very important thing for us to do as our state grows," Gillmor said. "And I would think that Park City and Summit County would feel the same way on that."
Also important is fostering a healthy business climate between rural and urban areas, Gillmor said. Some businesses along the Wasatch Front, in fact, have chosen to move to rural parts of the state to take advantage of land that is less expensive, state incentives and the lifestyle.
She would like to see that happen more often.
"That’s going to be a very important part of what our office works toward," she said, adding that Summit County is unique in that it has both an urban and rural areas. "It’s having more collaboration between urban — not just business services but companies — and the rural parts of the state."