Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s business tour hailed as opportunity
July 22, 2016
The personal story of Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox resonates with Jeff Jones, economic development director for Summit County. Cox grew up in Mount Pleasant, a small town in Sanpete County, then left for college and eventually law school.
But he ended up going back to Sanpete County before forging a career as a politician.
"I admire that in somebody," Jones said. "He stuck with the roots and has an understanding of rural issues."
That's one reason Jones was quick to accept when Cox's office asked if the lieutenant governor could come on a tour of Summit County businesses last week. Jones thought it was a valuable opportunity for entrepreneurs here to make a connection with a state politician who shares roots with many of them.
"The value of one of these tours is to connect industry to the governor's office, in this case the lieutenant governor," he said. "And it also demonstrates that there's a partnership in our region between our local economic development agencies, our non-profits and our business community."
The tour was part of an initiative in which Cox is visiting each county in Utah. In Summit County on July 12 and 13, he toured five companies and one non-profit organization: High Star Ranch, White Knight Fluid Handling, High West Distillery at Blue Sky Ranch, Avatech, 3DSIM and Pandolabs.
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Jones said the tour gave Cox a firsthand look at the issues facing businesses in Summit County. For both Cox and the entrepreneurs, he said, it was an experience they couldn't get anywhere else.
"The old story of 'you never really know what's going on unless you walk in somebody else's shoes for a while,' I think that holds true," he said. "And it's not just our county, but all the other counties. I think that gives them some insight into the issues that are impacting businesses."
David Perkins, proprietor of High West Distillery, said he was pleased to be included, adding that it's a big deal when any elected state official comes to the area.
He said forging relationships with the state's most influential politicians can prove valuable.
"There are a lot of laws that change all the time, and to be able to call on the lieutenant governor's office, they can help guide you," he said. "It never hurts to know somebody at the highest levels. If you know you've got somebody's ear, that's really important."
One of Jones' primary objectives was to illustrate that Summit County's business scene is bustling and goes far beyond the hospitality industry. White Knight Fluid Handling, for instance, manufactures fluid pumps. Avatech has developed technology to better evaluate avalanche risk. 3DSIM builds software that makes the 3-D printing on metal easier. Pandolabs is a resource for startup companies and small businesses.
"It's important for people to see that Summit County is not just tourism, even though that's our main industry," Jones said.
Jones added that many of the businesses spoke with Cox about the challenges they face as entrepreneurs in a rural area. The most common topics included the need for more workers and affordable housing for them.
For Perkins, the tour was a sign that the lieutenant governor is committed to helping solve those issues.
"What it says is, 'We're open and we're listening,' and that's really key," he said. "The fact that they're willing to come see us means a lot."
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