September 1, 2010

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Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Article

Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2010

The Utah’s Own brand is there. The logo is there. We need to go one step beyond. And in order to do that, we've got to have more marketing funding. We've got to have it from the government. We've got to have it from each other. Numbers make us stronger in this case. I don't have the money to educate the consumer on a regular basis about buying Lehi Roller Mills. So I'm grateful to Utah's Own.

How do outdoor products fit in with Utah’s Own?
CUTLER: We are starting to sign up some of the local smaller outdoor companies. Black Diamond has moved some of their production overseas now. They still make their carabiners here, some of their parts for ice axes, crampons and climbing gear. But we do have ski companies. And several bicycle industry companies' products are made locally; there seems to be some interest in the bicycle industry.

HUDSON: The Outdoor Retailers Show should have a huge local food offering. We should seize any opportunity to educate people from out of state as well. I recently participated in the Park City Food & Wine Classic. A big reason we did that is because it is a prohibitively expensive event that takes money out of our state, and we wanted to get three local restaurants involved to expand people's awareness of how much really excellent food is here. Taste education is a huge part of what we are talking about.

One of the big things Harmon's does really well is they give their employees ownership over their area and those people are teaching the customers about food. That is really important. But what a missed opportunity, to have the Outdoor Retailers Show here every year and not have a huge, Local First, Utah's Own food offering there. Even the State Fair has a Utah's Own food court, but why isn’t there a farmer's market at the State Fair?

BRANDT: This summer will be my fifth time as a kiosk at the Outdoor Retailers Market.  There was a drive by the Outdoor Retailer to get organic, local, environmentally sustainable food. There is a big environmental focus with the outdoor industry. But I have to pay a very large percentage to the county to be there. It's taking away our resources. I go to the farmer's market every Saturday and pull hundreds of pounds of produce and bring it to the Outdoor Retailer, yet I'm a business that struggles. I can't bring these products to the Outdoor Retailer and make an additional profit because the county has me strapped by the bond they have on the building. But this is an example of where we are at with small business trying to develop in the local economy.

I spoke with Peter Corroon at the county building. I said, "We need subsidies for local farmers, for local restaurants wanting to serve arugula. It's really simple." But he said, "No, that is a state issue."

Well, you know, we're working on it on a county level, but let's connect the dots here. I would like to promote municipalities and the counties interacting with the state and just getting right to the core of the issue.

ECCLES: I always like to ask the question: What is the role of government in what we do? We have a lot of things that we do, like attracting businesses to the state or helping existing businesses to grow or expand. All of these things are related to post‑performance activities and they are also sustainable. In a hundred percent of the cases, it's a variable expense to the state. So what is the role of government? In many cases, we prime the pump and that is what we've done in partnering with Utah’s Own in terms of putting in some of our funds. We got some federal funds also.

We started with $45,000 and look what we have created. In everything we do, I like to see a public‑private partnership, and it's been very successful thus far. An important thing to do going forward is to convene a group like this more often.

So where we can facilitate is by helping convene groups, and we've done that in our cluster strategy. The important role of each individual company that is going to participate in Utah's Own is to work together, both financially and work‑wise, to help promote it.

It's such an important brand. I think we have seen a 70‑percent increase or positive impact to your sales. And each of you can speak to that yourself—what happens when you have that Utah's Own brand placed on your products.

Are we ensuring that the business environment is strong, that the tax environment is positive, and the regulatory environment is good for businesses?

But coming to your point about education—that is so critical. Go out and partner with the producers and the retailers to come up with an overarching strategy that everybody can buy into. Because at the end of the day, it is economics and we are in tough times. We know that employment is a lagging indicator. We know that there are small businesses that have been hanging on and they are about to the end of their rope now. So how do we work within that environment, which we cannot control, and try to promote local products?

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