Second annual Wasatch Back Economic Summit to highlight common problems, solutions in the region |

Second annual Wasatch Back Economic Summit to highlight common problems, solutions in the region

Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ryan Starks, left, and Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, kick off the first Wasatch Back Economic Summit last year.
Photo by Trevor Hooper

As more development comes to Summit and Wasatch counties, the separation between the two areas is shrinking. The growing cohesion and interest in finding solutions to issues faced in both counties is apparent leading into the annual Wasatch Back Economic Summit.

The summit, which is in its second year, is scheduled to take place on May 30 at the DeJoria Center in Kamas. Business owners and tourism leaders from throughout the Wasatch Back will gather to listen to keynote speeches and break-out sessions that cover the major challenges in the area. The summit is organized by the Park City Chamber/Bureau and the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce. It is sponsored by Park City Board of Realtors.

Nancy Gray, vice president of member services for the Chamber/Bureau, said the summit will be similar to last year’s event, which was held at the Zermatt Resort in Midway. One new session is being added, though.

Following a keynote address from Fraser Bullock, co-chair of the Olympic Exploratory Committee, there will be a panel featuring elected officials in the area. The mayors of Park City, Kamas, Heber and Midway, along with members from the Summit and Wasatch county councils, will discuss what local governments are doing to solve community issues and plan for the future, said Ryan Starks, executive director of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Starks said both counties face similar difficulties, such as a lack of affordable housing and the need for a stable workforce and transportation solutions, but they also have similar opportunities. Elected officials, he said, are the ones coming up with solutions to those mutual challenges.

“We thought it would be good to put them together and let them showcase the work that they’re doing and also invite dialogue so they can really get updates about the things that each county and city is working on,” he said.

He hopes the elected officials and attendees can better understand each other’s needs after the panel. Summit attendees will be able to ask questions during the panel.

The summit’s organizers then plan to dive deeper into community issues by discussing them in hour-long breakout sessions. Gray said she expects the session titled Mayflower Development Overview will be popular, which is why the session is being offered twice.

Representatives from Extell Development, which owns land on the east side of Deer Valley Resort, and the Military Installation Development Authority, which facilitates development on military land near Jordanelle Reservoir, are set to present. They plan to show renderings and provide information about the Mayflower development and its impact on the surrounding towns.

“We are going to know exactly what is going on over there, which is pretty interesting,” Gray said.

She said the breakout sessions also include topics such as real estate, the workforce and resources for start-ups in the Wasatch Back. Leaders from the two chambers also plan to host a session about how they advertise and market the regions.

A mix of community experts from both counties and from the state will present during the sessions, Gray said. The sessions will also include time for questions.

The breakout sessions are sandwiched between keynote addresses. Bullock from the Olympic Exploratory Committee is expected to talk about the strengths of Utah’s economy and potentially the Olympic bid. Sarah Calhoun, an entrepreneur in Montana who owns the women’s clothing company Red Ants Pants, will wrap up the event. Gray said she is expected to talk about entrepreneurship in rural and semi-rural areas.

Gray said the summit was well-received last year, and she hopes to have a similar outcome this year. The event is sold out, but tickets were available for the lunch and final keynote speaker.

“We are both facing the same issues, and I think it’s really important that we get together and pool what resources we can so we can communicate with each other,” she said. “If we can do that, then we are much more likely to find solutions to the things that are in front of us.”

Gray said the summit is expected to take place in Wasatch County next year, and it will continue to alternate between the two regions.

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