Since the Great Recession in 2008, Utah’s overall employment base has increased by almost 19 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this growth hasn’t spread evenly throughout the state. Many of Utah’s economically rural counties have not experienced any employment expansion.
In the discussion on how to improve the economies of rural Utah areas, the role technology can play is a common theme.
“It’d be very important for Vernal because Vernal has no good infrastructure road wise. We have Highway 40 that runs through it, but we have no trains or anything like that, so tech is probably the better way to go for us,” said Doug Hammond, the mayor of Vernal.
Hammond’s city is home to one of the Utah State University extension campuses. He says this helps educate residents, but after graduation, they often move away to find work. Tech jobs could help keep them there.
“For the children that are going to school right now it would be great to have something set in place for when they get older and graduate from high school or college,” said Brenda Leifson, the mayor of Fayette, located in Sanpete County.
“I’ve read a lot about that STEM program, and I would love something like that to come down to like the elementary school, middle school, high school,” Leifson said.
As long as the coal industry continues, Leifson isn’t concerned about her town’s economy. But if there is a STEM program for Fayette students, tech jobs may help them remain in the community.
However, Leifson also said she isn’t sure how much growth her town could handle.
“We don’t have the water to really grow," she said. "But you know, in the communities surrounding us, I’m sure they have room for growth.”