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Dozens of local business owners gathered at Afton’s Floral in Brigham City Thursday to attend the state’s first Utah’s Own Summit, an initiative started by LuAnn Adams, Utah’s new commissioner of agriculture and food.
Although the Utah's Own program has been a Utah Department of Agriculture and Food marketing program for many years, Adams hopes to increase its reach across the more rural parts of the state by holding summits.
“I’ve always been excited about Utah’s Own,” Adams said. “I live in Box Elder County and one thing I noticed about Utah’s Own is they’ve done a good job of promoting Salt Lake and Utah County and some of Davis County, but they haven’t made their way out to rural Utah. This is our first attempt to getting out to rural Utah. We’ve partnered with all the Small Business Development Centers across the state to host these summits.”
The event was held to acquaint Utah’s local, food-oriented companies with the benefits of the Utah’s Own program. The company owners also heard from industry experts on how to market and grow their businesses.
“Utah’s Own wants to help expand your businesses,” Adams said. “We can help by partnering you up with other entrepreneurs, and we can help get you into restaurants and grocery stores.”
During this year’s legislative session, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, helped to get $85,000 appropriated for the Utah’s Own summits. Perry said he noticed four years ago when he was elected that because of the recession, some of the state’s agricultural programs had to be cut.
“One of the things that got cut was Utah’s Own,” he said. “Not a lot, but a little, and that hurt.”
Perry said he’s watched what Utah’s Own has done with a small budget over the last four years and wanted to make sure the program got some funding this year from the Legislature.
“Our economy grows through small businesses,” he said. “It’s not great big companies.”
In 2013, 150 Utah’s Own companies were surveyed. A total of 75 percent indicated Utah’s Own was important to their overall success and 88 percent indicated Utah’s Own was important to Utah’s economic development. The same 150 companies reported having created 591 new jobs since 2010—almost 200 jobs per year, or more than one job per company per year, according to a press release from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Wendy English, business analyst for the Box Elder County Small Business Development Center, spoke about the state’s SBDCs and the types of resources they can provide to new, local businesses. The centers can provide help with marketing plans, acquiring loans, creating brochures or video packages, social media and some even have commercial kitchens.
Karin Palle, of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, said her organization’s goal is to help 10,000 small businesses across the United States grow in the next three years. The Utah sector is housed in Sandy at Salt Lake Community College and provides courses free of charge to businesses that are established but looking to grow.
Several Utah’s Own products were showcased during the summit, including cheeses from Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, popcorn from Pop Art, truffles from Utah Truffles/The Cacao Group and beverages from Apple Beer.
Kevin Jones, owner of Snap Daddy’s Bar-B-Que Sauce, said his company, which began nearly three years ago, has been successful due to help from Utah’s Own. The program helped him locate and purchase a commercial kitchen.
“If I could sum what Utah’s Own is, it’s a place where like-minded people go to help each other,” he said. “And we’ve got the financial backing of the government.”
Laurie Seron, owner of Laurie’s Buffalo Gourmet, has also found success through help from Utah’s Own. She’s been in business for about 15 years. About two years ago, she spearheaded a group through Utah’s Own called Utah Specialty, which is a support group for small, local food companies to come together and talk about issues, concerns and answer each other’s questions. The group currently has about 145 vendors who participate.
“My objective with Utah Specialty was to provide education, a safe place to go to ask those ‘dumb questions,’ and provide a place where people could come and know we’re all in this together,” she said.
Jed Christenson, director of the Utah’s Own program, said he looks forward to hosting summits in other areas throughout the state.
“Utah’s Own program was developed to create a consumer culture to look for and purchase products grown, made and manufactured right here in Utah,” he said. “That fuels the economic engine of the state of Utah. We want to encourage consumers to look for and buy Utah’s Own products.”
For more information on Utah’s Own, visit utahsown.utah.gov.