Summit County Presents Economic Development Plan To Governor
The Summit County Council recently presented their Economic Development Plan in a meeting in Salt Lake with Governor Gary Herbert.
The county’s Economic Development Director, Jeff Jones, talked to KPCW about some of their goals, some areas where they’ve made progress, and some of the continued challenges.
Jones said that Governor Herbert is asking all rural counties to present their plans. It’s part of his 25,000 Jobs Initiative, a project to help create that number of employment positions in rural areas in the next four years.
He said the governor is letting counties make their own decisions about their futures, while they share some common goals with the state, like planning for the Olympics and dealing with wildfires.
Jones said the county has done some solid work in advancing infrastructure, transportation, and obtaining open space.
It also has a three percent unemployment rate, which is quite low, but Jones said the other side of the coin is that employers are scrambling to find workers.
The problems with the food and lodging industries point to two of the major issues for the county—transportation and workforce housing.
“That’s our largest sector. Food and accommodations are our largest employment sector. It’s also the sector that contributes the most to our gross regional product. That particular sector is generating the most money within our county, but the largest percentage of workers within that particularly industry group do not live in Summit County.”
Too often, he said, applicants are excited to get a job in the county, only to run into obstacles with the cost of housing or its availability.
He said that the county and Park City both are looking at the housing issue.
“On workforce deed restricted units, we have about 1,000 units within both Summit County and Park City combined. Park City adopted their housing goals to build 800 units over the next five years and within Summit County we have adopted a goal. We’ve completed an assessment to show that we have a significant need to build additional workforce housing going forward. Our council was still trying to work out exactly how we should do that and where we should do that at.”
With the county owning the Cline-Dahle parcel near Jeremy Elementary, they’re considering the options for workforce housing, or possibly assisted living facilities. The master planning effort for Kimball Junction, he noted, might also lead to progress.
As for the Boyer Tech Park at Kimball Junction, Jones said it’s a tremendous opportunity, but it also has challenges.
“There’s a limited number of uses that are allowed there. We need to explore expanding that list of uses. We also need to find ways to entitle property a little more quickly. Because when decisions need to be made by boards, corporate boards, about where they’re going to locate to they need a little better level of predictability so they can get into the marketplace quickly. Hopefully in years going forward we’re going to be able to, as we go through the neighborhood planning process, identify the uses that we want in that area. How to build upon those and create a system that works a little better for everyone.”
The county takes advantage of some state and federal programs to aid the economy. One concept is the Enterprise Zone which they used to help revive a building in Coalville.
“The enterprise zone is a tax credit program so that if you invest certain amounts of money say into a building that’s been vacant for a number of years then you can take a tax credit off your taxes. Those are also available if you create a certain number of jobs that pay above the county average then you can also receive a credit for doing so. We have within the county we have an enterprise zone that we set up that covers the entire non-incorporated county area. Then there are several cities within Summit County that also have an enterprise zone, Park City has an enterprise zone.”
He added that Kamas also has an enterprise zone. They also utilize the federal Community Development Block Grants, also known as CDBG grants.
“Those are administered by Mountainlands Association of Government for our region and various jurisdictions make applications for water improvements, sewer improvements. Of course, that’s how a lot of small towns throughout Utah are able to find monies in order to enhance their infrastructure.”