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 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.