Time may not necessarily heal all wounds, but when it comes to economic development in Tooele County, it certainly has helped.
At the second Tooele County Economic Development Strategic Planning Day on July 10, local leaders there unanimously decided that economic development in the county needs to be led by a single organization. Instead of local entities competing against each other, they will work together to improve the county’s chances of landing more business.
As reported in a July 24 story about the planning day, Tooele Mayor Patrick Dunlavy summarized the conference’s highlights — and the need for change.
“In my experience, I can tell you that in the past, we lost good companies because we weren’t together,” he said. “Our old way of competing has gone away. Our new philosophy has got to be, ‘let’s get it for the county.’”
His sentiments were echoed by Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall, who agreed that economic development in the county should come from a single, collective voice.
“We need some kind of nucleus so we are all together on this,” he advised.
Randy Sant, economic development consultant for Tooele City and the county said, “The old way of doing things has got to end. …We need a group that can look at each request and decide where in the county is the best site and get support from everybody.”
And Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne added, “We need a group of government and community leaders that can meet on short notice and be responsive. A small group can be more nimble.”
Such a chorus of support for a unified economic development front hasn’t been openly heard from local government, business, education and military leaders in several years. In the 1980s, the Tooele County Economic Development Corporation was created to do that job. Funded by the county and participating cities and towns, and run by an executive director and a board of directors, the corporation worked to market the county for economic development.
But in the 1990s, the corporation disbanded. A contributing factor to its demise was a lawsuit by Grantsville and Stockton against Tooele City regarding the redevelopment of Tooele Army Depot property that had been transferred to the city. Sadly, even though the corporation’s board of directors consisted of elected officials and business leaders, the lawsuit was the last straw.
Since then, Tooele County, Tooele and Grantsville cities have mostly worked independently on economic development. But evidence that a shift may occur surfaced during the first strategic planning day in May. There, officials agreed that the county is often divided by high school boundaries. To be more successful with economic development, the county, cities and towns must transcend provincial territorialism and “work together.”
With nearly 50 percent of the county’s available workforce commuting to the Wasatch Front each day to earn a paycheck, the need to create more local jobs, diversify categories of industry — and generate more tax base to help pay for government services — remains a pressing concern.
It’s good news that local officials and business leaders have come full circle and have put the past behind them to work together for a greater community good. May this new economic development initiative progress quickly and be given the chance to make a needed difference.