The perfect gift to the community
Last Thursday I spent part of the afternoon, along with some other people from the Chamber of Commerce, with Steve Burge touring the new Western Energy Training Center (WTC) located in Willow Creek Canyon.
Burge was recently appointed to be director of the facility by the College of Eastern Utah that owns the training center.
After the tour and what we heard I think the new center is a perfect gift for a community that wants to pull itself up by the boot straps.
While in the past coal booms have made Carbon County a hopping place, even a county with twice the population it has now, the new emphasis on energy in our country and around the world is the shot in the arm that our vicinity needed to really get going.
Over the past couple of years it has been apparent that things are changing here; new houses were being built, new businesses opened and fewer were closing than earlier in the decade.
While not all the businesses in the area bottom lines are showing an expansion yet, many are. And those that are lagging behind will soon see the increase.
Right now in Price it is hard to find an affordable and decent rental because we have a lot of people living here who are working in the energy industry.
A couple of years ago the employment advertising in our paper was down to the bare bones; a job here and a job there, often entry level or one of those "work at home" kind of ads.
Now it seems if one really wants to work, they can get a job. And there is one more thing on the employment scene I don't think I have ever seen since I moved here 15 years ago.
Signs in a number of business windows that say "Help Wanted."
It is obvious something is happening, something that it appears will lift our area out of the economic slump it has been in for years. Stories of businesses primed to relocate here are legend and one of the things the local population has learned to do is take any kind of prediction with a whole shaker of salt. Pie in the sky has been fed to many of us so many times that we often don't want another piece of it.
But this time there is something in the winds of industry that say things are changing, that the cold north wind that used to only blow money out of the county is going to change to a warm gentle westerly flow that will bring our ecomony to a level where people who want to work will have the opportunity to do so, at jobs they have trained for.
The WTC is part of that westerly wind; it is only one piece of the puzzle, but a major piece that can help many of the others fit together.
Classes began at the center only a couple of weeks ago. A few more will be coming up this week. No it isn't a start with hundreds of people coming right in and wanting to stay in the county and spend their money for a month at a time. But it is a beginning. CEU now owns the buildings and 370 acres of Willow Creek Canyon. It's paid for, lock stock and barrell. The WTC has grant money to get started putting together training, to hire some faculty and to get the thing rolling. Classes at first have been, and will be, seminar types with people coming in from different places to train others from other different places.
The plans are big, and based on experiences at energy training centers in other places, like in Wyoming and Oregon. The energy industry is not only crying for warm bodies to work in their industry, they are wailing to get those that are trained even more. Thousands and thousands of trained workers are needed right now to extract coal from seams, pull natural gas from the ground, drill holes to pump oil from and to run the nations power plants. And with the retirement of the knowledge of the "baby boomers" starting to exact it's toll, that need will only become stronger.
The WTC is in the right place, at the right time, to make Carbon County one of the centers where these workers will be produced. Many of those will come right from out own population, particularly if we can start to get kids ready for energy careers in our public schools by introducing them to the concepts it takes to be engineers, operators and technicians.
For a community that is just starting to emerge from some dark economic times, the WTC is the perfect gift.