CEDAR CITY — This year marks the 31st anniversary of the annual Utah Rural Summit, making it the longest running rural development conference in the nation. The summit will take place Thursday and Friday in the Hunter Conference Center on the Southern Utah University campus.
Hosted by SUU’s Utah Center for Rural Life, the 2018 Utah Rural Summit, themed “Now is the Time,” will feature keynote addresses from internationally acclaimed community development author Doug Griffiths, Gov. Gary Herbert and a panel of Utah’s Silicon Slopes executives discussing how to bring technology jobs to rural communities.
Other conference presenters include Strong Towns chairman John Reuter and nationally honored entrepreneur Sarah Calhoun, as well as numerous business leaders, state officials and local leaders.
Attendees include government and business leaders from across the state, including legislators, county commissioners, city officials, economic development and planning professionals and policy makers from both state and federal government offices.
This year’s Rural Summit will also feature a panel presentation addressing the opioid crisis in rural Utah. Though seldom talked about, Utah is dealing with the devastating effects of opioid addiction throughout the state.
Alema Harrington is widely recognized as a Utah Jazz broadcaster and former BYU running back; however, he is also a recovering addict and will join the panel to share his story and his passionate efforts to help those struggling to break free from addiction.
The conference theme, “Now is the Time,” highlights the necessity of strengthening and investing in our communities while the economy is strong and resources are readily available.
“In these times of economic growth, we need to be extra visionary in laying the foundations of future economic prosperity and success, or we risk being left behind when the forces of technology and change combine to generate a future economy that is much different from the past,” conference organizer Wes Curtis said in a press release for the event.
This theme will be echoed by keynote speaker Doug Griffiths, author of the highly acclaimed book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.“
“Everything is about to change,” Griffith said in the release. “Don’t just be the leader, show leadership.”
Griffiths believes communities are the foundation on which we build stronger families, stronger businesses and stronger nations, and he helps communities identify what is holding them back from finding success and discover how they can overcome it by illustrating how communities often destroy their own chance of success.
“We all do things that undermine our opportunity for success, whether we are consciously aware of it or not,” Griffiths said. “My objective is to help communities recognize their potential and to get them on a better path.”
“Build strong communities, and success will follow.”
With an eye toward the jobs and workforce needs of the future, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox will moderate a panel of Silicon Slopes executives as they discuss the potential for moving technology jobs out to rural areas and how to train the workforce needed to do these jobs.
The summit will also feature a panel of housing experts to address the housing shortage found in rural areas across the state, as well as keynote address by John Reuter from Strong Towns.
Reuter asserts that many long-held assumptions about community growth and development are inefficient and not sustainable, while offering a different way of thinking about community development for the long-term.
The Utah Rural Summit also features a number of breakout sessions covering a variety of topics, including natural resources, public lands issues and workforce development.