Governor Calls Utah Rural Summit More Important Than Ever

Published: October 06, 2020 | Author: David Bishop | Read Time: 3 minutes

Utah Rural Summit, Southern Utah UniversityAttending his last Utah Rural Summit as the state’s chief executive, Governor Gary Herbert praised the resilience and innovative spirit of rural Utah during the 33rd annual event held on the campus of Southern Utah University. He forecasted that two decades from now the state’s economy will be more evenly balanced between rural and urban portions of Utah.

“If you create wealth, you create jobs. We need to make sure there are opportunities to create wealth in rural Utah,” said Governor Herbert. “I think the next twenty years will be very exciting for rural Utah. Not just as a recreation place, but new businesses will say, ‘I can find a better location, I can improve my bottom line, and my market share by having my company in rural Utah.’”

With the impact of COVID-19, the Utah Rural Summit included a limited, socially-distanced mask-wearing audience while watch parties were held across the state allowing for virtual attendance. The annual summit hosted by SUU is an event that allows leaders from around the state to converge and find new ways to grow rural Utah’s economic base.

“This summit is really important because it’s part of our mission to build the communities and the economy throughout all of rural Utah,” said SUU President Scott L Wyatt. “For us to be able to host this puts a lot of that energy on our campus and helps us learn about all of the needs throughout the rural communities of the state.”

President Wyatt joined Governor Herbert, plus government and business leaders in signing a memorandum of understanding promoting the 11-county region’s efforts in growing economic development opportunities in rural Utah.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox also participated in the summit and presented Stephen Lisonbee, executive director of the Utah Center for Rural Life, the SUU Entrepreneur Leadership Council’s Spirit of Southern Utah Award for his efforts in growing the Utah Rural Summit, especially in this challenging year created by COVID-19.

“I’ve so admired watching Stephen dream about what this could be and then the implementation of that,” said Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. “He is able to execute at an incredibly high level and has taken that talent and applied it to the Utah Rural Summit.”

In addition to developing solutions for growing the economies of rural Utah, the Summit also held its second annual State Bank of Southern Utah Speed Pitch competition. Seven finalists were narrowed down from more than 60 submissions. A panel of judges, which included Governor Herbert, awarded $10,500 in cash prizes as well as mentoring from successful entrepreneurs to the following winners:

First Place
Kiana Stoker - Reece & Co.
Stoker, an SUU senior, creates handmade accessories for bags and homes. The company is already successful grossing more than $100,000 in annual sales. Stoker also won the Governor’s Choice Award and the Audience Choice Award.
Second Place
Nathan Olsen - Hold Your Horses
Olsen’s company provides an authentic western experience for customers with trail rides and overnight camping outings. Olsen purchases and trains Mustang horses from the federal government for use in the outings.
Third Place
Jared Britt has developed an aviation consulting business that works with schools and private industry to create aviation maintenance training programs.
Fourth Place
Dallin Aston -
Aston has created a 7-day beginner’s masterclass in playing the guitar.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the 33rd Utah Rural Summit was the most successful one to date. The Summit is organized by Utah’s Center for Rural Life.

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