Recession offers valuable lessons for the East and West Sides
Summit County has not only recovered from the recession, it is moving full steam ahead. Both sides of the county have experienced upticks in job growth, with old positions being restored and new businesses clamoring for employees. Real estate sales and construction are returning to pre-recession levels too and, on top of it all, the resorts are enjoying a banner snow year.
Of course, growth presents its own challenges, but before complaining about traffic, high housing prices or long lift lines, let’s take a moment to be thankful. There are plenty of communities around the country that would be thrilled to tackle those problems instead of grim agendas filled with high unemployment, plummeting real estate values and abandoned factories.
We’ve got it pretty good.
But that’s no excuse for complacency. With our belts cinched tight, priorities often became more clear. When forced to shed wasteful spending and demand greater efficiency – we did. And, in many cases, we were better off. For instance, during the downturn, the county courthouse trimmed top heavy administrations and has only recently begun to replace them with more essential positions.
Now that we have the funds to reinstate programs and people, we should keep those lessons in mind. We know for instance that our service-based economy depends on a diverse workforce and those employees need affordable housing. With development on the upswing, it is time to enforce the housing promises that were made in the past and to ensure the same level of commitment is required of new developers.
It is also important, as development surges on the West Side that the East Side doesn’t become solely a bedroom community for businesses in the Basin and in Park City. As the county learned when the Snyderville Basin exploded into an unincorporated sprawl of subdivisions in the 1990s, residential growth does not pay for the services it requires. The county and East Side town leaders need to explore economic development that would fit with their area’s rural lifestyle.
the same token, the commercial hubs on the West Side would benefit from nearby affordable housing so they didn’t have to rely on long distance commuters as employees. Another benefit to affordable housing in the Basin is a built-in custom base since out-of-town employees tend to take their paychecks home to spend.
Jeff Jones, the county’s economic development director is already making strides in those directions but towns like Kamas and Coalville are still struggling to support local merchants and Basin businesses are scrambling to find employees.
With careful planning and judicious use of the current economic windfall, local leaders have the opportunity to stimulate a diverse economy that would be more resilient and less prone to a recession in the future.
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“The alarming lack of snowfall is both depressing and troubling right now, but it’s about to get dangerous,” writes columnist Amy Roberts.