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KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

New Agreement Aims To Bring Remote Working Jobs To Rural Utah

Photo of three panelists signing a document as their colleagues look on.
Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University.
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Executives from the Department of Workforce Services, the Salt Lake Chamber and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah unveiled a new rural jobs initiative on the first day of the Utah Rural Summit in Cedar City.

An agreement signed at the Utah Rural Summit on Tuesday might soon bring remote working jobs to rural parts of the state. 

The agreement — which is technically a memorandum of understanding between the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Salt Lake Chamber and Economic Development Corporation of Utah — aims to use telecommuting to better connect Utah’s rural counties with the Wasatch Front. 

Zac Whitwell of Workforce Services says the interagency effort represents another step towards realizing Gov. Gary Herbert’s goal of bringing 25,000 jobs to rural Utah by 2020. Nearly 20,000 jobs have been created in Utah’s rural counties since the governor set that target in 2017. 

Whitwell says that linking rural Utahns with urban employers is a benefit to both communities. 

“Employers are telling us that they’re having a hard time filling jobs in the metro areas,” he said, “This is an untapped workforce that can meet both the needs of the metro employers and rural counties.”

Photo of a man with a microphone speaking before a crowd during the Utah Rural Summit.
Credit Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University.
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The two-day summit also featured a "shark tank"-style business competition. LeeAnn and Michael Adams were the big winners, taking home more than $5,000 worth of resources for their app, Mad Freight. It’s a gig-based courier service that allows rural Utahns to make deliveries to each other while making long drives across the state.

The memorandum comes on the heels of a trial telecommuting program launched by the state in September 2018.

The pilot program found that government employees who worked from home were 20% more productive and reduced their collective emissions by 273 pounds of carbon dioxide, said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. 

Cox says that remote working is a crucial strategy for economic growth across the state — one that will allow rural Utahns to compete for jobs that were previously available only to people living along the Wasatch Front. 

“We need to get these jobs into rural Utah, and this is the best way to do it,” he said. 

David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.

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