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Listening for the local economy



By Sun Advocate

Jim Zuiches, the leader of the national coalition, has a lively discussion with John Allen of the Western Development Center at Utah State University. The listening session was designed so people could get issues and ideas on the table about economic factors in rural areas.

Most business owners know that they should listen to their customers if they want their business to thrive and grow.
But listening to each other? On June 28 a bunch of business and government people got together to listen and write down ideas that each other had to generate concrete concepts about growing the local economy.
The whole thing was organized by the Western Rural Development Center and they held what is termed a Regional Listening Board at the Holiday Inn in Price.
Participating in the activity were economic development representatives, business representatives and public officials from the seven counties in the region. Eastern Utah was one of five sites selected in the Western United States to hold the event.
Two factors contributed to Eastern Utah being selected for this activity. First the Eastern Utah Economic Development Collaborative was the only organization in the state of Utah to apply for a Kellogg Foundation Economic Development Grant which unfortunately was not funded.
Second in determining that the event be held here was the dramatic success of the Southeastern Utah Small Business Development Fund (SEUSBIF). SEUSBIF was a small business development program that operated in the Southern Portion of the Eastern Region.

College of Eastern Utah president Ryan Thomas gives some ideas to Nancy Arnold of the University of Montana.

The event began with a reception held on June 27 with a reception sponsored by Utah Power and Light courtesy of Debra Dahl and the Department of Workforce Services courtesy of Bob Gilbert.
Carbon County Commissioner Michael Milovich welcomed the group and introduced representatives of the Western Rural Development Center (WRDC). WRDC staff, James Zuiches of Washington State University, John Allen and Jim Goodwin of Utah State University gave an overview of their project.
The Western Rural Development Center is hoped to accomplish two goals from the listening session. The first was to gain input that will generate data to impact on both state and national legislation to enhance rural economic development.
The second was to form a national network of economic development collaboratives.
The actual Listening Board activity sponsored by the Eastern Utah District of Rehabilitation Services and Carbon County Economic Development began on the morning of June 28 with Price Mayor Joe Piccolo. Piccolo introduced WRDC staff to those who had not already become acquainted with them.

Mary Zorn of the Price Department of Workforce Services had the job of inputting all the information and ideas that were gathered at the session on her computer for later analysis and distribution.

The listening activity then began. It was driven by participation. The WRDC utilized a model of data collection wherein everyone at hand offered ideas and raised issues. This data was collected and will be organized with trends in ideas noted.
Information from the activity will be distributed back to the individual collaboratives and will be utilized to impact state and national legislation.
Regional economic development staff feel that participation in this activity will accomplish a number of goals. It will strengthen the economic development collaborative that exists across the region. This activity will provide focus to the area which will enhance future efforts to secure funding for economic development.
Last, but most importantly, it will provide data for future planning and development.
“It was a good session and a lot of valuable things were learned from it,” said Karl Kraync, director of the Eastern Region Vocational Rehabilitation. “The center is in the process of evaluating the ideas and processing the data.”
A regional follow-up meeting will be held later this summer.

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