Broadband Networks Unite UTAH’S Urban and Rural Workforces
Included in this years Governors Businesss in Utah 2017 recap, there was a feature on Accelerant’s work in Rural Utah, the full story is located on Page 96 and follows below…
It’s an old dynamic: rural folk move to big cities for an employment opportunity. Those who remain behind? Well, they miss out. Unless your small town happens to host a mine, a mill or some other large industry, it may not have the opportunities you want. Price, Utah, is such a town.
In prior eras, extensive mining powered the region’s economy, but a recent decline has hurt the community’s economy. The town has struggled, but not for lack of talent and motivation. “Rural communities like Price are struggling with lack of job opportunities,” said Dean Lundberg, president of Accelerant. “As a result, we are finding a great supply of highly qualified workforce talent for our clients at very competitive wage rates.” His company has the stated goal of “solving big-city talent shortages with small-town opportunities” by linking rural and urban centers.
The state’s Wasatch Front area comprises a near-80-mile stretch from Ogden at the north to Provo at the south end, with Utah’s capital Salt Lake City at its center. With a state unemployment rate of 3.1 percent, the highly-populated and urbanized Wasatch Front is facing an ever-tightening labor market and some workforce shortages. Accelerant helps urban companies solve their staffing problems by sourcing skilled, remote workers from more economically depressed areas.
Take for example HealthEquity. The Draper-based health savings company turned to Accelerant for staffing help, and Accelerant helped it set up a call center in Price. The center initially employed 28 Price residents—that number is now 60. “People were holding back tears when they got a HealthEquity job offer because of what it will mean for their families and the community,” said Kelleigh Cole, director of the Utah Broadband Outreach Center, a program in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. For Cole and the outreach center, revitalizing rural communities depends upon having the right infrastructure, especially broadband internet connectivity.
And revitalization extends beyond unique job opportunities from Wasatch Front-based companies. Connectivity also helps rural companies grow at home. Cole explained that the center tracks broadband availability, identifying areas for improvement. As a result Utah always leads the nation in broadband availability and enjoys exceptional internet speeds and access even in rural areas. “It allows small-town businesses to compete on a global scale,” she said. “A company in rural Utah now has access to the same national and global markets that anyone else has.” Cole cited Browning Arms Company as an example. Based in Morgan, Utah, a town of fewer than 4,000 people, the firearms manufacturer worked with a broadband provider to bring fiber cable to its facility. “Not only does broadband help them modernize their operation internally,” Cole said, “it also allows them to compete globally and have a more international presence.” Broadband also helps attract out-of-state companies to Utah.
The state is known for its educated and skilled workforce and business-friendly environment. Now, with an interactive map found at locate. utah.gov, companies looking to locate to Utah can see exactly what bandwidths, utilities, amenities and real estate are available where. “The idea of the map was to show companies all of the options available to them,” Cole said. “We want to be a one-stop shop for business leaders to make smart site selection and expansion decisions.” But, Lundberg said, “broadband alone doesn’t close the economic gap.” It merely provides the infrastructure to do so. “The question is how to leverage the asset of broadband to create economic stimulus.” Thus Accelerants’s goal of breaking down the walls of traditional workforce management, as it has done with the HealthEquity project in Price.
Growing companies along the Wasatch Front. Talented, yet underemployed, people in rural areas. It seems like a perfect pairing— and Utah’s robust broadband infrastructure offers a way to pull them together.
Join us as we take on the challenge Governor Gary Herbert made to the state of Utah to create 25,000 rural jobs in 25 counties before 2020. More Info here…