Earlier this year, a group of public and private community leaders resumed meeting to discuss how to improve the economy in the area with the consistent war on coal and the possibility of the pending local plant closures. Regular local public leaders in attendance include Commissioner Lynn Sitterud and Commissioner Jordan Leonard, Emery County Commission; Commissioner Larry Jensen, Carbon County Commission; Associate Vice President Doug Miller, USU Eastern; Superintendent Ryan Maughan, Emery County School District; Mayor Mike Kourianos, Price City; and Jade Powell from the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, who regularly represent local government interests in the area. Local businessmen, including Brock Johansen, CEO/Emery Telcom; Laren Huntsman and Merlin Rushton, PacifiCorp.; Gina Gagon, Gagon Family Medicine; and Lowell Morris also regularly attend. In addition, Christine King and Kevin Dale John from the National Labs, along with their staff, and Sharon Fain,Vice President at Rocky Mountain Power, also regularly attend.
The committee discusses ways to promote the local assets of the community, including the operational coal mines, the two coal fired power plants, existing transmission lines, available land, water resources and storage, the local college, rail system, full fiber-to-the-home telecommunications network, the Carbon County airport, recreational opportunities, and a trained and hardworking workforce. It also helps to promote local potential opportunities, such as the expansion of USU Eastern and the addition of a full vocational school, the Uinta Basin to Helper Railway Project, the Carbon County Low Elevation Reservoir, the San Rafael Energy Research Center and its adjacent business park, the Ridge Road Business Park, and other energy production such as nuclear, advanced combustion, and hybrid systems.
Dru Bower is a community consultant that has helped Wyoming communities rebound from the war on coal, including the planned nuclear plant in Kemmerer, WY. Emery Telcom has contracted with Mrs. Bower to advise the group and organize a Utah Interagency Working Group. If the Carbon and Emery Counties are to prepare for future expansion and development, there will need to be funding from federal, state, and local government agencies.
In addition, Rocky Mountain Power has indicated a willingness to provide funding for a grant writer to help secure these grants for the local governments to increase the infrastructure in the area. One of the misconceptions in the community is that these funds are meant for private companies, but these funds are available for the communities to prepare for economic expansion and often are granted to the local government agencies. Rocky Mountain Power has demonstrated a willingness to partner with the communities to help meet the community needs.
The Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments (SEUALG) is also an important part of economic development in the area. SEUALG operates programs ranging from senior services, food banks, and other poverty alleviation aid and also assists communities with economic and community development through planning and revolving loan funds. Many of the federal grants for the local communities have to be applied for by an entity like the association. SEUALG updates the group on the many grant applications that it is pursuing for the local area. At the meeting in October, SEUALG presented updates on BRECC, Communities Leap, Energywerx and GAIN grants.
Recently, the committee arranged for a visit from USU President Elizabeth Cantwell. They explained to President Cantwell the economic plans for the area and the role USU Eastern can play in that expansion. The committee also arranged for a meeting with Gary Hoogeveen, CEO Rocky Mountain Power, to discuss how to extend the life of the current coal power and possibly locate future nuclear plants in the area.
If the community is to continue to thrive, coordination from local businessmen, residents, and local government will be a critical part.