Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 12, 2014
Time for Tooele County to take control of its brand

Let’s sell Tooele County.

I’m not talking about a fire sale to pay off debt or open up naming rights for the county to the highest bidder.

It’s time for Tooele County to take control of its own identity and brand.

When I moved to Tooele County 16 years ago, I heard all about the county from people that live in and out of the county.

People in Tooele County are uneducated and inbred, I was told.

The truth is, yes, our census data does show that we have a lower level of adults with a degree from an institution of higher education. But last year Tooele County School District had one of the highest high school graduation rates in the state.

With the expansion of USU-Tooele and the new Tooele Applied Technology College, we are working on pulling our share of Gov. Gary  Herbert’s “66 by 2020” goal.

That’s Herbert’s initiative to have two-thirds of Utah’s workforce educated with a technical certificate, a college degree, or an associates degree, by 2020.

More and more of Tooele County’s high school seniors are heading off for higher education or seeking it right here in Tooele.

They realize that the days of taking your high school diploma to Tooele Army Depot and landing a secure job that pays a wage that will support a family are over.

As for the inbred comment, well Tooele, like many small remote communities — before the advent of the automobile Tooele was remote — probably had its fair share of second cousin marriages.

But I’ve been here for 16 years and have yet to meet a relative.

Although when I read a book written by our publisher emeritus’s brother, I noticed we might have a common ancestor from the late 1600s. I don’t think that counts as inbred.

Tooele County is the nation’s toxic waste dump. That’s a popular theme. Let’s bury that one.

I hear this claim from other Tooeleans who use it to describe how other people see us.

But when I get out of Utah and tell people I am from Tooele, most people skip over the Tooele part — maybe because they can’t say it or spell it — and jump right to the Utah part.

I get far more questions about how many wives I have or strange liquor laws than I do about toxic waste. There’s the perception problem.

When I do get questions about toxic waste, regardless of any personal feelings, I put on my hometown chamber of commerce hat and I boast about our capacity to serve our country by taking care of the waste it produces.

“Yes, way out in our West Desert, out of site, in a land that you don’t dream of in a lullaby, we have found a way to exploit a dearth of natural resources and have developed the technology to safely dispose of low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous substances in a scientifically engineered safe manner,” is my stock reply.

After I dispel myths of large trucks that dump leaking, rusty 55-gallon drums of glowing green slime under the cover of darkness, I throw in a comment about how UTA’s Trax system and peanut butter, during an E. coli scare, have injured and killed more people than our hazardous waste corridor.

I may follow that with the question “Do you know where your used Coleman lantern mantles are buried, or what happens to gowns and booties worn by medical professionals after they treat a patient with radiation therapy?”

The latest rage in Tooele County myths has been perpetuated largely by my non-associated colleagues in the non-professional news media known as social media or the blogosphere.

Tooele County, in case you haven’t heard, is a bankrupt desolate place where the population is fleeing the county after the Deseret Chemical Depot shut down and is waiting for the last person to turn off the lights on their way out of town.

Our public facilities are chained shut and in a process of devolution, Tooele County road crews are churning up roads, converting them back into gravel paths because gravel is cheaper to maintain than asphalt. That’s what I have read.

Interesting how somebody can pick up a piece of truth and run in the wrong direction with it. We try not to do that here at the Transcript-Bulletin.

So you can see why I was excited to learn that the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism received a $70,000 grant from the county’s tourism advisory board for three marketing campaigns to attract tourists to the county.

Also I have high hopes that the county’s $400,000 investment of tourism tax dollars in Country Explosion will bring thousands of people to Tooele County that have never been here before.

These Explosion people will not see a toxic wasteland and will return to the county and enjoy Tooele’s trails, ATV riding, motorsports and other outdoor venues. They will become min-ambassadors of Tooele tourism as they go home and tell friends and neighbors all they saw and heard while on their trip to our county.

I was disappointed when I asked the Republican candidates last weekend at a debate about their plans to improve the public perception of Tooele County.

I didn’t hear any grandiose plans to buy up billboards, television time, radio spots, and even newspaper ads that would make Tooele County more visible than Moab.

I think the chamber and the Tooele County Trail Committee are on to something with their plans to market the county as the Wasatch Front’s playground.

Even our nearby neighbors have some misconceptions about Tooele County and are unaware of the recreational opportunities that our county holds.

We could become a destination spot for weekend getaways, quick Monday holiday excursions, and the thanks to the recession stay-cations.

Tooele County, yes we take your waste, but it’s a lot more!

It’s time to sell Tooele County. 

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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