The Morgan County Council has agreed with moving forward on hiring someone to help with the county’s economic development goals.
"We have difficulties in the county," Councilman Lyle Nelson said. "We are hailed as the county that is difficult to do business in, or get a business started in. I have heard horror stories of those that gave up trying."
He said the answer to turning that around is to hire at least a part-time economic development director or consultant.
"We need someone on our side that can actively recruit," Nelson said. "We need to put some money into someone here consistently that answers the phone."
Nelson said it would be a good idea for council members to consider what types of businesses they want locating to the county, and offer such businesses incentives for locating in Morgan. He suggested businesses in the sports/recreation, medical, aerospace, and high-tech sectors. The county’s proximity to Snowbasin, coupled with Snowbasin’s plans to develop on the Morgan County side of their property, is something the county should capitalize on, he said.
Nelson said he would not consider the retail industry high on the county’s economic development priority list.
He also mentioned existing business parks with infrastructure and zoning that would be ideal spots to tout to businesses eyeing Morgan County.
He said he recommends offering tax incentives that are "post performance," in essence a rebate after the businesses has become established.
Chairwoman Tina Kelley said that Snowbasin, the Browning outlet, East Canyon, Lost Creek Reservoir, biking on county roads, and rafting on the Weber River lead her to support the county courting businesses in the recreation sector.
"We are at a crossroads," Kelley said. "Those events bring people here. They come back later to see what else we’ve got. Once they experience Morgan, they come back."
Councilman Ned Mecham agreed.
"On any given Saturday, you can see hundreds floating on that river, and hundreds of bikers on our roads," Mecham said.
Kelley also mentioned that not having high-speed internet in the county has stopped many businesses from locating in the county.
Nelson said that studies have shown that around 60 percent of employees will locate to the county they work in eventually.
"That is a huge impact," Nelson said. "Not only do we get property and sales tax for the business, you also eventually receive additional property taxes from the workers locating within the county. A lot of money generated by business stays in the county."
Councilman Robert Kilmer said hiring an economic development professional is a good place to start.
"For years, we have had a half-hearted attempt and it hasn’t helped. We have thrown a little water on this seed or that, and not seen growth. It is not just going to happen," Kilmer said. "We can’t just wish people here. We are going to get consumed by residences if we don’t do something soon."
Kelley said Morgan City’s use of consultant Matthew Godfrey is a great idea because he only gets paid if he produces desired results.
Nelson said he would like to move forward in advertising a formal request for proposals and qualifications, eliciting bids from economic development establishments. Kelley mentioned that county tourism and restaurant taxes could be used to fund the economic development position.