Panguitch To Open Innovation Hub In Hopes Of Attracting And Retaining Remote Workers
Leaders in rural Utah often joke the number one export in rural counties is kids. Mike Sarles hopes the Panguitch Innovation Hub will start to change that.
With funding from the state and city — people in Garfield County will be able to use the space for remote work and business start ups. Sarles is a coordinator with Utah State University Extension’s Rural Online Initiative program and is a city council member.
“The whole concept of remote work makes it more likely that we can get our kids to move back to be in our communities where they actually want to be a lot of the time,” he said. “There are options and ways for them to be very successful and still live in rural Utah. They don't have to move to California to get that programming job. If they're a programmer, they can do it from here.”
Sarles said the hub isn’t just for local remote workers — he’s seen a “huge increase” in people moving to Garfield County and working remotely during the pandemic.
There will be space for people to work or hold meetings, as well as various printers and other equipment available. There’ll also be a full-size commercial kitchen which comes from an old middle school cafeteria. Callie Ward is a co-project leader for the hub with Sarles and is in charge of the cooking area.
Garfield County’s economic driver is tourism, and Ward said local residents could be able to capitalize on hungry tourists driving through. She thinks there are generational recipes and homegrown products that can put Panguitch on the “food map.” Whether it’s grandma’s cinnamon roll recipe or homemade tamales, she said the hub’s kitchen can help mass produce it.
She said the center, and especially the kitchen, is where people can potentially monetize their hobbies.
“Most everybody has some type of a skill that they can utilize,” said Ward, who is an assistant professor with USU Extension. “I think it's just teaching individuals to take that skill or hobby that [they] can then turn into a business idea.”
The ribbon cutting for the center is on March 29. Ward said they’ve already gotten a grant for another center in nearby Escalante.