Staff Column: A small investment, a very big return
What if you had the opportunity (and the money) to invest a few thousand dollars in a business that would guarantee you a million to a million and a half dollars of gross revenue coming through the doors for each of the next five years. Would you jump at the chance?
Well right now the county as a whole has a chance to bid on just such a project.
For years the Utah High School Rodeo championships have been held in Heber City. Each year that town and county benefit from the between 2,000 and 3,000 people who show up to attend and compete in the event. The rodeo competition goes on for eight to 10 days, with the participants and their immediate families staying in the area for most of that time. On top of that, extended families of those participants usually come for two or three days to watch their relatives compete.
Each year the Heber area reports that somewhere around one to two million dollars are spent in their area during the competion.
Now I have seen our tourism bureau and the state put out figures on the many ways visitorship affects our area financially. People come and go, but it is hard to pin down exact numbers, numbers that show the exact benefit that visitors provide to our economic well being as a county.
The affect of this event is well measured and exacting. Heber has been doing it for so long that they know the impact. And we have a chance to put that money into our stores, motels, restaurants and other businesses.
When this rodeo event comes to town, many of the people who are either in it or are there supporting it have a good deal of down time. That doesn't mean they are going to sit in their RV's parked at the fairgrounds and twiddle their thumbs. They are going to want to have things to do. In Heber they spend a lot of money on recreation. Also what is not measured in the Heber numbers is what spills over into Summit County, particularly Park City where there are a lot of recreational activities.
So this wouldn't just be a Carbon County thing, it would help Emery County too, because some of the prime recreation areas (such as the San Rafael Swell) are in that county. Just think, we could have large crowds at the museum, restaurants around town could be packed, stores could sell everything from shoes to auto parts and entertainment venues would have bigger crowds.
The event takes place in June of each year, generally a time when our county has few town days or celebrations. This could be brought here and a celebration in our cities could even center around the rodeo.
Polls we have done at the paper show that many residents of Carbon County don't think tourism is very important to our county. Many see the dollars as low value to the area and that promoting such events or bringing people in from the outside is just not worth it.
I take issue with that thinking. We have a viable service economy here and it will only get stronger the more people we attract. An event like this gives us the chance to "show off" our area and tourism experts know once you show people from somewhere else a good time the word spreads and they often return with others to spend more time not connected to the venue.
Sunday I had some old friends come to Carbon County. These are people who are well traveled and over the years have spent a great deal of time recreating in our state. I drove them around town, took them up along the benches near the Bookcliffs, out southeast of town to the gun range and areas around there. When we got done, these people who know Utah so well said, "Gee we didn't know there was so much here, so much to see and do."
Living here we sometimes forget how unusual our area is with its coal mining background and stunning scenery. It's easy to get lost in the everyday effort to make a living and raising a family, and to not look beyond our own little worlds. It takes something like a little driving trip like I had with my friends to make us realize we really do have something special.
Right now our energy business is the backbone of our economic well being, but it will not always exist. In thinking of the future (even it it is the far future) we need things like this effort to bring the rodeo here to be supported and to be run effectively. We have a new arena at the fairgrounds and some great facilities for horse people to come to. Let's get them here to see it.
Let's support the drive to get the high school rodeo championships here starting next year. It will be good for all of us.