Think tank shutters Park City headquarters |

Think tank shutters Park City headquarters

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A political institute at Southern Utah University has become the umbrella organization for what had been a Park City-based think tank, ending a two-year stay in Park City after arriving with hopes of becoming a hotspot for the intellectual crowd.

The Park City Center for Public Policy’s fundraising efforts suffered terribly in the recession, the former president and CEO acknowledged, saying that donations fell well behind what had been anticipated. Jim Souby, who had been the president and CEO, said the center by December had secured 40 percent of the donations it needed to continue the operations.

Without the funding it needed, the center agreed to a partnership with the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. Doug Larson, the executive director of the Southern Utah University center, said the Park City Center will remain a separate entity from the Leavitt Center.

Leavitt Center leadership approved the arrangement in June. Two people who worked at the Park City Center left the organization. Souby, who is one of them, though, will be retained as a consultant, Larson said, indicating Souby’s relationships in the field will be important. The Park City Center’s Web site now lists its address in Cedar City.

Souby led the Park City Center as it moved from the Salt Lake Valley, where it operated under the moniker Oquirrh Institute, to Park City in 2007. He obtained $10,000 in assistance from City Hall for the move, and at the time he told The Park Record he wanted the center to be "embedded in the community."

Two conferences were held, one in 2007 that focused on health and mental health and the other in 2008 covering the economy and the presidential election. They drew approximately 250 combined, Souby said.

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When the group secured the City Hall assistance, it had projected that it would pump several hundred thousand dollars into the local economy by the end of 2009 through conferences. Other conferences had been discussed, including one that would have brought in oil-shale experts.

City Hall provided the assistance through a grant meant to boost the local economy. The local government occasionally provides similar grants to startups.

But Souby said the Park City Center could not keep its fundraising at the anticipated levels during the recession. He said the donations dropped quickly when the financial markets tanked last fall and into this year.

Souby said the Park City Center’s balance sheet will benefit from partnering with a university-based organization like the Leavitt Center, indicating that the decision "was a matter of survival."

"Otherwise, we would have folded up and gone away," he said.

The Leavitt Center leadership is considering options for the programs that had been offered by the local group. Larson, though, said it is unclear whether Park City will continue to play a role, but he hopes that is the case.

"Quite frankly, Cedar City doesn’t have quite the cachet as Park City does," he said.

He said himself, former Gov. Michael Leavitt, whose name is attached to the Leavitt Center, and Souby plan to discuss what long-term commitments there could be to Park City. Larson said the standalone Park City Center had been a success until the recession set in.

"The Park City Center had a great business model, and it’s one we’re hoping to capitalize on," Larson said.