04 Aug, Wednesday
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25k Jobs. 25 Counties. Four Years.

Utah’s economy is thriving. It is consistently recognized as one of the top economies in the nation by well-respected organizations like Forbes magazine, Pollina Corporate and CNBC. The Wasatch Front is experiencing the benefits that come with a top-tier economy such as low unemployment, high job growth and improved quality of life.

While communities located along the Wasatch Front are reaping the rewards of a booming business environment, some communities off the Wasatch Front are feeling isolated from this economic success.

In an effort to remedy this problem, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a challenge in his 2017 State of the State Address to create 25,000 jobs in the 25 counties off the Wasatch over the next four years. And just like that, the 25k Jobs Initiative was born.

25k Jobs Initiative

While the measurable goal of the 25k Jobs Initiative is to create 25,000 jobs in 25 counties in four years, the overall goals of the initiative are more far reaching. One of these goals is to help communities clear roadblocks that are impeding economic progress, whatever they may be. Not all of Utah’s communities are experiencing the same challenges. One community may be struggling with lack of employment opportunities while another may be suffering from insufficient infrastructure. Locally driven solutions are needed for the unique challenges.

The governor announced the 25k Initiative in his State of the State, but needed a point person to get the ball rolling. He turned to his lieutenant governor, the state’s go-to rural aficionado. The Lt. Governor’s Office teamed up with World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) to kick off the initiative with the 25k Jobs Launch Tour.

On the road

The 25k Jobs Launch Tour is no small feat. The tour brings resources that are typically housed along the Wasatch Front to each of the 25 counties off the Wasatch Front for a couple of hours. More than 20 economic development organizations and business service providers are participating in the tour.

The family-friendly tour stops provide networking opportunities for local representatives from business, education and government. Business owners or managers can connect with service providers to learn how to find new customers, be more efficient with their time and possibly even expand internationally.
Tour stops also include a component for job seekers. Attendees can meet with employment specialists and, at certain stops, local companies that can help prepare them for and land a job.

Prior to each tour stop, a steering committee comprised of local and state leaders met together to discuss what would be most beneficial for the community. The goal was to find out what the communities needed from those actually living and working there.

A rural strategy

The governor wanted buy-in from both the public and private sector on the 25k initiative. To get business leaders on board, he met with them and issued a new challenge: Add a rural component to their existing job growth strategy.

While hiring people from off the Wasatch Front to work remotely may have never crossed these business owners’ minds before, it is actually a great way to find skilled workers and provide jobs in areas that need them. HealthEquity is a company that did just this.

HealthEquity, located in Draper, provides tools for health savings accounts and other health financial services. It was recently looking for qualified workers to meet its growth needs when it realized the jobs did not have to be filled by people in the Wasatch Front. HealthEquity decided to hire people who could work remotely from rural Utah. This resulted in more than 60 permanent, benefited employees in Price, Utah.

This example shows that real change can come from industry. The hope is that other companies will partner with rural Utah to find innovative solutions to their workforce needs.

Spreading economic success

The Great State of Utah spans 84,899 square miles and is home to 3 million people. While the vast majority of Utahns live along the Wasatch Front, that does not mean we can neglect the 25 percent of residents who live elsewhere. The 25k Jobs Launch Tour is the first step of a larger initiative to ensure all of Utah’s communities are full participants in the state’s economic success.

For more information on the 25k Jobs Tour, including tour dates, visit www.25kjobs.com.

Derek B. Miller is president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, an organization dedicated to helping Utah companies think, act and succeed globally.