Fighting Rural Brain Drain With Economic Growth
In May, eight businesses were approved for grant money as part of Utah’s Rural Fast Track grant program designed to grow businesses outside of urban areas. Linda Gillmor, the director of rural development at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said that part of the reason for the grant program is to help local economies diversify as a way to help stop rural population drain.
“There are people that still want to stay in farming and agriculture or the extraction industries but we want to help them diversify,” she said. “We have a number of things like this that are coming together that will help level the playing field as far as opportunity in rural communities. The Rural Fast Track grant is one of those tools to help that growth happen faster than it might on its own.”
Companies applying for the grant money are already established businesses that are looking to expand. Gillmor said that the program stresses community support as well as private sector investment.
“The community that they come from does need to write a letter of support because we want the community to know that that business is there and ready to grow as well. They do need to have their own financing,” she said. “After they’ve done that and after they’ve hired one person at 110 percent, then we go out and we tour their facility and look at what it is that they’ve purchased. We’re encouraging private investment. They have to stretch out and be able to do that on their own and be willing to do that on their own.”
Recipients of the funds can use the money for hiring new employees, creating new jobs, purchasing new equipment, or anything else to help their companies grow.