New Agreement Aims To Bring Remote Working Jobs To Rural Utah | KUER 90.1

New Agreement Aims To Bring Remote Working Jobs To Rural Utah

Sep 4, 2019

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.”

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.
Credit Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University.

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.