WASHINGTON COUNTY is contributing to, and sharing in, Utah’s overall economic prosperity. Our current unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, with job growth of 4.1 percent, and future job growth over the next ten years predicted to be over 40 percent. As 2017 began, our current rate of employment expansion appeared to be more sustainable and manageable than the overheated rates of 2016. We are now in the “zone” of not-too-fast-not-too-slow job growth. While the unemployment rate has slightly edged up in recent months, there seems little cause for concern given the strong job growth and low levels of first-time claims for unemployment insurance. In fact, a slightly higher rate of joblessness could actually ease the pressure of a tight labor market.
Washington County added more than 3,200 jobs in the twelve months preceding March 2017, this was a gain of 5.4 percent. However, rates of growth moderated somewhat in past two quarters, but this is a positive development because our labor market showed slight signs of overheating. Construction, retail trade and healthcare/social services added the highest number of new positions, and no major industry lost employment. Our strong gains in wages and sales coupled with healthy construction permitting signals a robust Washington County economy.
One-Year Vision — 2018
- The opening of the new Dixie Technical College (DTC) campus on Saint George’s 150-acre. Tech Ridge. This 30-acre campus is key to our workforce development efforts, especially in reducing intergenerational poverty.
- The rollout of Dixie State University’s Innovation Plaza. Our vision is for this new facility to play a major role in cultivating a skilled workforce while also helping to create jobs, and develop a stronger, more diverse economy.
- Washington County Economic Development Council, with a diverse representation of key stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Over the next year, we envision this council becoming a resource for supporting the success of existing companies and assisting newly formed companies in further diversifying our economy. We believe the work of this council will leverage relationships and intensify collaboration across agencies to support entrepreneurs at every stage of their development; through education, experiential learning and mentorship. We are excited about these collaborations on the horizon:
• USU Extension is taking over efforts to support entrepreneurs in writing for USDA SBIR grant funding. This comes at an opportune time as USU Extension and DSU partner on building out the makerspace at the new Innovation Plaza, which will be the hub for connecting innovators and helping them develop their ideas into patents and businesses. This partnership also involves connecting entrepreneurs with SCORE members to provide them with the guidance and expertise to be successful.• Our SBDC is being reorganized with new leadership and this could not come at a more opportune time as we work to support the influx of startup activity with our area chamber of commerce. We see the Saint George Area Chamber of Commerce and SBDC partnering very closely to build the capacity for the support of entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey—with education, experiential learning, and mentorship. We see these organizations working side-by-side to communicate the entrepreneurial character of our community, catalyzing the creation of new entrepreneurial programs, connecting entrepreneurs to community resources, and showcasing leading entrepreneurs as role models.
• Our Five County Association of Governments is supporting an Area Sector Analysis Process (ASAP) to clearly identify the specific types of businesses that would gain a competitive advantage from locating in Washington County. Analyzing and clearly communicating this report will better assist our council in directing entrepreneurial efforts as well as attracting and recruiting the right businesses for the area. We believe this report will help our county, as well as the surrounding counties, in accomplishing Utah’s #25kjobs rural initiative by providing the insight needed to focus our efforts.
- People who visit and relocate their families to Washington County enjoy the scenery and recreation. We are working to resolve access to our public lands and to assemble enough utility so people can access what makes our area unique and special. As we do this, we believe we will begin to attract a niche market of people who identify with an active lifestyle.
For a full one, five, and ten year plan for Washington County download a PDF here.