The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Lessons from the Utah Rural Summit
The Utah rural summit concludes today in Cedar City. UPR's Chris Holmes was there from opening to close and reports on highlights from the summit.
The keynote speaker on Thursday was Jack Shultz, author of the book The Seven and a Half Keys to Big Success in Small Towns. Key #1 according to Schultz is to have a "can do" attitude. In welcoming summit attendees, Southern Utah University President Dr. Michael T. Benson offered a local example: The Utah Shakespeare Festival.
"Fred and Barbara had the temerity to suggest we start a Shakespeare Festival. And if you've heard Fred tell the story, he said the idea went over like a pregnant pole vaulter. The first season they had 10 actors and $1,000 budget....the festival now has a $7.5 million budget, a tony award, and a reputation around the world as some of the best theater you'll see anywhere."
Shultz, who is a rural economic development consultant, offered his keys to rural success by providing success story after success story, including one striking example of an opportunity lost for Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they failed to provide support in the 1970s for a group of young, struggling entrepreneurs who needed a loan of $35,000 to stay afloat:
"They went to see the head of economic development for Albuquerque and asked if they had any programs for entrepreneurial businesses. They said 'We don't even know how to spell it much less have any programs for it, you'll have to go see a bank.'"
The young entrepreneurs had to ask their parents for the $35,000, which was granted under one condition: "You move this company that you call Microsoft from Albuquerque back home to Seattle. With that Bill Gates and Paul Allen packed up the Uhaul and moved Microsoft to Seattle. Can you imagine what Albuquerque, New Mexico, would look like today if they still had Microsoft headquartered there?"
Harold Lyman from Blanding has attended the Utah Rural Summit since its inception 25 years ago: "The main topic at the first one was land issues and we're still talking about public land issues, so a lot of the topics remain the same."