County plans economic diversity
Summit County may be looking at a considerable amount of growth and development in its future but where that development occurs and what type will be determined by a new economic plan being crafted by the county.
The proposed Summit County Economic Diversity Strategy Plan, authored by Assistant County Manager Anita Lewis and Economic Development Specialist Alison Weyher, was formulated in part to chart an economic future and regulate what types of development come to the county. Different approaches for the Snyderville Basin area from the East Side of the county are part of this plan.
"In the East, there’s a big need to expand the commercial core. We need to look for more opportunities for industrial and commercial enterprises," Weyher said. "In the Basin, we need to find ways to complement the existing business structure."
Weyher points out that there is over 7 million square feet of land in the county that is undeveloped. She believes it’s important to control future development because otherwise "we may end up with things we don’t want."
The approach for the Basin will be predicated on the notion of preserving the resort economy. Possible industries Weyher said she would to see include high-tech companies and the medical industry, dealing especially with sports medicine to accommodate athletes.
On the East Side, Weyher says they are just starting to formulate a plan but she cites Coalville as an example which many believe "is the end of the world." Its proximity to Interstates 80 and 84 and the fact that it is roughly 50 miles away from the Salt Lake City Airport she says could be ideal conditions for further development.
Among the goals of the plan are (1) a diversified, balanced economy; (2) salaries that pay a living wage; (3) environmentally friendly businesses; (4) keeping the unemployment rate at 3 to 4 percent and (5) supporting existing businesses while encouraging new industry to locate here. This last goal Weyher says is particularly important.
"We don’t want to bring in businesses at the expense of current ones," Weyher said.
Another huge issue the plan will seek to tackle is a two-pronged approach: both finding qualified employees for businesses located here and making sure that good-paying jobs are here for those that live here.
"Right now, Summit County exports white-collar employees to Salt Lake City. We also import many blue-collar workers like those who work in the resort industries," Weyher said.
Increasing the availability and efficacy of public transit Weyher says is crucial to supporting those blue-collar workers. She pointed out specifically those in the restaurant and bar sector who, oftentimes, when they get off of work late at night the public transit system is not available to them. Making those schedules better, she said, is paramount.
Supporting fledgling workers is also part of the plan, Weyher said, and part of that lies in reinstituting job training programs in high schools. At Wednesday’s County Council meeting, Weyher said the lack of these programs currently in the South Summit area is a big issue since most of the automotive and construction training programs were moved to Salt Lake County.
"Not all children are going to go to college," Weyher said. "These programs are important."
The council also addressed broadband access across the county. Though this is something that will be reviewed by the Council at a later date, the conversation about improving connectivity is already underway.
The county has met with Internet providers such as AllWest and Century Link to talk about ways to improve access to those in the county who don’t have fiber-optic cable systems near where they live, much less wireless access.
"This community is tech savvy," Weyher said. "It’s interesting that we have some of the slowest Internet in the state."
Weyher spoke about AllWest in particular, which she says is the only hardwire provider in the area and recently received federal loans to expand. Part of their goal is to get fiber-optic access to 60 percent of the homes in the East Side of the county. Century Link, she says, has also expanded coverage in Park City and near Empire Pass.
"It’s expensive to lay fiber-optic lines a company needs a critical mass to justify that expense," Weyher said. "There are fiber lines all along I-80, [S.R.] 224, [S.R.] 248 and [US] 40. The problem is just getting it into individual communities."
The county will also be meeting with mayors from the East Side towns to see what kinds of businesses they want in their communities and to help them attract those businesses. The Economic Diversity Strategy Plan is still a working draft, Weyher says, and that citizens should expect to learn more about it in the future.
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