Local leaders and Utah lawmakers representing rural areas of the state gathered at the State Capitol today for the legislatures annual Rural Day to discuss their priorities for this year’s legislative session.
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who is himself a former rural legislator from Fairview, Utah, spent about a half hour talking with the group about the challenges rural areas face and some of the potential solutions.
“Everyone one of our counties is different," he says. "Everyone one of our communities is different. And I tell people you’ve got to know who you are. What do you want to be when you grow up? And then tell us. And tell us how we can help facilitate that. Don’t let us tell you how to do your job, but tell us how you want us to help you do your job.”
One of the biggest problems several of the rural counties face is how to deal with the growth of energy development in their areas. Growth means more economic development, but it also strains infrastructure and roads. Increased energy development also faces several challenges from environmental groups and those wanting to protect land for recreational use. But Cox says it doesn’t have to be an either or conversation.
“Unfortunately, the mindset is, well, it’s an industry versus environmental protectionism and that’s simply not true," he says. "I believe that those of us that live closest to these resources value them the most and value protecting them the most.”
The event is sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It is its fourth year at the Capitol.