BEAR remains bullish about Castle Country
As the county's name implies, energy and the jobs created by its production are vital to the economy in Carbon County. However, as federal emission restrictions tighten, a focus on the diversification has become more and more important. In 2006, the Business Expansion and Retention Project was born, moving the economic development focus inward. At their latest BEAR executive session, Ethan Migliori and Nick Tatton gave a history of the program's success as well as its hopes for the future.
When the group held its initial meetings, it became apparent that the actual discussions being had by economic development officials from around the area were every bit as important as the actual BEAR mission.
"Before BEAR came together, there were a smattering of economic development entities in Castle Country and the right hand never knew what the left hand was doing," explained BEAR Executive Director and founding member Karl Kraync. "BEAR gave everyone a platform to share their ideas and goals."
The program's initial goals were to incubate and start new businesses from within the area as well as to retain and expand of businesses already operating in Castle Country.
To accomplish this, BEAR set out conduct a site visit with every business operating, using never before seen data base systems created by BEAR partner Executive Pulse.
Executive Pulse set up a system which allowed a site visitor to collect a massive amount of data with only a few questions within a small amount of time.
In the fall of 2006 a miniscule team of outreach specialists began collecting data from the 1,700 to 1,800 businesses operating in Castle Country, finding that owners were more than willing to share the needs and wants of their business than ever expected.
Working through a model which demonstrated that as much as 70 percent of economic growth and 65 to 85 percent of new jobs came from existing businesses, BEAR became an expansion and retention juggernaut.
Consisting of between 10 and 12 economic professionals in early 2007, BEAR partners quickly grew to include; Price City, Carbon County, Emery County, Helper City, the Department of Workforce Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Small Business Development Center, Business Technical and Assistance Center, the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, Utah State University, the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments as well as many private interested interested individuals.
Initial funding came from the United States Department of Agriculture, Vocational Rehabilitation and VISTA Volunteers. These organizations provided the capital needed to visit every business in the area by the end of 2007.
After spending the resources to gather such a large amount of data, the question became, what do to now?
The team at BEAR knew exactly what to do.
They started by presenting specialized marketing training in Helper, Price and Emery County. Giving training that was asked for by the businesses they had spoken with and directed at the marketing concerns these owners had the most difficulty with.
The BEAR group was able to bring more than $3.5 million worth of fast track grants to manufacturing companies in Castle Country looking to expand their businesses.
Since 2006, the project has created 207 jobs in Carbon and Emery counties, secured more than $580,000 in public investment loans and increased area revenue by more than $5.1 million.
This boost the area's economy proved vital during a recent economic downturn, as companies which were looking at relocating to the Castle Country simply stopped paying attention.
This lack of interest from outside entities shifted the focus of all economic resources to local business, making the BEAR model of homegrown expansion and retention a major success year after year.
Headlines garnered through the growth of Castle Country BEAR did not go unnoticed as counties from every corner of the state took interest and started projects of their own.
"The allocation we received from the state will not fund our program completely," explained former Carbon County Economic Development Director Delynn Fielding in a previous Sun Advocate article. "However, this partial funding will allow the program to continue within rural counties in the state, at least for the time being."
Fielding has since been chosen by the governor to work within the state's economic development team.
As the success of BEAR continued, 26 counties in Utah picked up the model which had been bragged about throughout Utah by executive board members including Fielding, Price City Community Director Nick Tatton, Emery County Commissioner Ethan Migliori and Emery County Economic Development Director Mike McCandless.
Starting with the 2011 Utah legislative session, Castle Country BEAR received concrete validation for its economic development model as the program was awarded funding through the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED). This funding along with a solid operating foundation has proven to be all BEAR needs to be a solid state-wide fixture.
During Migliori's discussion of the BEAR model during the group's meeting last Thursday, he showed just how the initial groups thoughts concerning retention and expansion had been validated.
"When we began, we operated on a model which considered that 80 percent of all job creation came from local businesses, eight years after starting the program, our data shows that 80 percent all all new jobs have come from local companies," said Migliori.
The Emery commissioner's presentation considered the area's economic situation and found it to be in rather good shape according to the needs established by Maslow's hierarchy. According to Miglori, the fact that our county and city governments spend a great deal of time discussing education, entertainment and communication speaks well of our business community.
If they were more concerned with food, clothing and shelter, things would be worse, he said.
In Migliori's conclusion, a community's economic health is dependent on the number and quality of jobs provided by employers in said community. Good jobs keep residents living in rural towns as these jobs allow residents to purchase property.