At the first of the year, Carbon County Clerk Auditor Bob Pero headed to Salt Lake after being appointed to the State Tax Commission. Now, the governor has once again reached into the area and has snagged Carbon Economic Development Director Delynn Fielding for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).
Fielding has been a moving force in the economic health of Carbon County for decades. Before he was the County Economic Development Director, he was the president of the local Zion’s bank for 27 years.
Now his focus is on a much broader scale and he is already taking the GOED in a new direction. He and his staff have set out on an ambitious schedule to meet with all rural county commissions to determine their number one priority for their county’s economy. He plans on doing this within six weeks.
Then he would like them to explain what solving their issue would do for the county. He plans on then adapting programs and resources to help address and fix the issue presented by the counties. Fielding says this is the opposite of what the GOED has done in the past. The counties have previously been presented with programs and resources and told to make them work for the issues they have.
Out of the 29 counties in Utah, he will deal with 25 that are designated as “rural.” Rural is defined as all Utah counties excluding Salt Lake, Utah, Weber and Davis. Approximately 85% of the population of the state lives in those four counties. Utah County is considered one of the most densely populated counties in the nation.
Still, there is a wide range of population densities in the remaining 25 counties. They range from Cache and Washington counties to the smallest of areas like Juab and Millard Carbon. Growth in these rural areas will depend on what those counties want to focus on.
As far as Carbon, Fielding has worked here long enough to have a good idea of what the top priority is, but he needs that to come from the commissioners themselves. He says that he will continue to help with projects he helped put in motion here.
He stresses that the future of the county depends on diversification of the products and services that come from here. Coal can remain a key player in the economic health of the county, but it needs to shift from being seen as a commodity that is burned in power plants to a valuable added ingredient in other products.
Several companies are already making the shift and Fielding says that those that do will continue to grow and thrive. The changing culture and EPA regulations will not favor coal as a commodity. The shift to natural gas and the upswing of the oil industry out in the basin will force the need for adaption within the coal industry if it expects to stay a vital part of the economy.
Despite his move, Fielding will remain attached to his Carbon County roots. He knows that looking at all the issues that face rural economic growth and narrowing it down to one major issue is more difficult than it seems, but he is convinced that it can be key to turning things around and heading in a positive direction .