Opinionated @ CFE

Peter Corroon is the Better Choice for Rural Jobs

Oct
23

All too often, the focus in a state such as ours is on the urban population centers. This often means that rural areas get either ignored or neglected. Just witness how Nevada has been treating its rural population with Las Vegas trying to suck up all of the rural water for its own uses regardless of the farmers or ranchers. This attitude continues the patterns of urban flight and neglects to tap our state’s valuable resources.

Consider which states have been weathering this economy. Most of them are primarily¬†agriculture-based, but they’ve been making significant investments in both the technology and energy industries. Much of this development is occurring outside of major cities. North Dakota, for example, has been working overtime to build up the oil industry and construct hundreds of wind turbines, most of which are out in the boonies. As a result, they have an impressively low unemployment rate and have successfully insulated themselves against any one industry bringing the state down.

The consequences of an “all eggs in one basket” approach are obvious when you look at neighboring states Nevada and Arizona. Both states bet heavily on service industry and construction jobs. The service industry generally pays poor wages and the construction industry regularly goes through boom and bust cycles. Nevada upped the ante further by doubling down (heh) on the gaming industry, a risky move that lead to higher unemployment than Michigan once the real estate market collapsed and nobody could afford to buy properties for cash anymore. Both states also ignored rural resources in favor of their major population centers.

Utah is already behind the curve on rural development. Homeshoring, bringing offshored jobs back to inexpensive rural areas in the US, is a practice that started around seven years ago. States like Iowa and Nebraska used their vast telecommunications infrastructure, leftover from numerous Cold War missile silos, to attract these call center jobs to their states with the lure of cheap labor and a low cost of living. Wyoming has had a booming energy industry which has kept their unemployment rate similarly low.

Utah, however, has been a laggard in this area. Efforts to improve the telecommunications infrastructure in our state are often met with staunch resistance from incumbent operators who have refused to invest in their networks. We’re enamored with oil when we could be developing the vast wind and geothermal resources in our state, exploiting the built-in demand for clean power from California. Sure, a number of large tech companies are coming to Utah, but they’re whizzing right by Tooele and Fillmore on their way to the Wasatch Front. That’s great for those of us in the city, but it does nothing to help out Utah’s small towns.

This neglect of rural areas is, unfortunately, a byproduct of the current Governor. As the chief executive, he is in charge of GOED and the way that it sells our state to new companies. He’s in charge of the PSC and what policies we enact for telecommunications investment. He’s in charge of UDOT and where it decides to build and maintain roads. If Gary Herbert wants to brag about Twitter, Adobe, and eBay, he needs to explain why he talked them into coming to Utah County instead of considering Moab, or Coalfield, or any number of other small towns that would crawl over hot coals to attract them. The fruits are clear: rural towns are second fiddle in Herbert’s vision.

Peter Corroon offers important distinctions from these policies. He’s in favor of critical infrastructure like UTOPIA which can allow rural cities to compete in the modern digital economy. He gives more than lip service to the small businesses that can drive both urban and rural economic development. He knows full well that we’re missing the boat on exporting our renewable energy to other states while reducing our own dependence on coal. In short, Corroon presents a balanced plan for economic growth instead of the “all eggs in one basket” approach that has failed so many other states.

I’m fully confident that Peter Corroon will do a much better job at being a partner with rural communities to attract outside companies and grow our own without being focused heavily on single industries. Vote Peter Corroon for Governor.

4 Responses to Peter Corroon is the Better Choice for Rural Jobs

  1. Jesse,

    Great post.

    While infrastructure is a major factor in why companies choose to build/relocate, unfortunately proximity to urban centers is also extremely important for attracting talent. It would be extremely difficult to attract and retain talent if, for example, Adobe moved to Coalville. I can’t imagine how they’d even approach that pitch to potential employees, most of whom are currently living in, or close to, tech-centric urban communities.

  2. There’s a surprising number of techies who would appreciate living in a rural area. A lot of my coworkers spend every other weekend lost in the mountains and canyons.

  3. Jesse,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about not putting all our eggs in one basket when it comes to industry. I like that Corroon’s Jobs Plan is so varied with multiple approaches to bringing jobs to Utah.

  4. Corroon’s jobs plan reads like a plan. Herbert’s reads like a list of stuff other people have already tried.

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