BICKNELL – The quarters and furnishings may seem unassuming — one woman, a small desk, a computer and a cell phone. But no mistake about it, Wayne County has landed a high-powered linkage to one of Utah’s best economic development resources.
Wayne County is now home to the field office of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) Rural Development Program, with Nan Anderson at the helm. Previously housed in Cedar City, GOED’s Rural Development field office moved to Wayne County with Ms. Anderson’s hire back in February.
“One of the requirements for the position is that the field office person reside within a rural county,” said Anderson.
GOED’s rural development office is best known for its Rural Fast Track grants and for its work with businesses to tap into the benefits of Enterprise Zones. However, the rural development office works at a variety of levels to support job opportunities and economic development in rural areas, including support for Governor Herbert’s challenge to create 25,000 new jobs in rural Utah by 2020.
Anderson’s territory includes the bulk of southern Utah. “If you were to run a line across the state from Juab County South that’s my territory,” said Anderson. But being located in Wayne County does provide entrepreneurs in the region with a leg-up on introductions and face-to-face meetings.
“Basically we do rural outreach, we work to support the county’s economic development priorities. We learn and listen about those priorities and try to see how our GOED program can accommodate and support those priorities. All counties want enhanced economic development, but the difference from county to county can vary tremendously. For example, some are tourism oriented, others not so much,” said Anderson.
“Rural Fast Track grants are one of the best tools we have in our program,” Anderson said. She noted that she is currently overseeing approximately a dozen projects that are “somewhere in the pipeline” between application, approval or project completion.
“It has been for me so rewarding and fun to watch the application, get it through a rigorous process–which is necessary when using taxpayer dollars–and get it through the process,” said Anderson. Rural Fast Track guidelines require, for example, that a business be already established for a minimum of two years, and business owners must provide matching funding.
Anderson serves as one member of a three-person team. Linda Gillmor is Director of the GOED Office of Rural Development, and James Dixon is the BEAR (business expansion and retention) officer. Each of the other two positions are based in Salt Lake City.
“Entrepreneurship is so vital to Rural Utah. A company that employs one or two people in Wayne or Garfield County is huge,” said Anderson.
Anderson says that the first step for any individual or previously established business person to tap into economic development resources is to first contact their county economic development officer. In Garfield County that would be Justin Fischer, and in Wayne County, Adus Dorsey.
“County economic development are our partners and extensions of our sales force, if you will. For start- ups, the first step is reach out to your county economic director. They know the resources that are available,” said Anderson.