Lieutenant governor does live podcast from St. George economic summit

L-R: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Abby Cox, Kirsten Rappleye, Spencer Hall and St. George Mayor Jon Pike participate in a live podcast session during the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, speaking Thursday at the annual St. George Area Economic Summit, told attendees, “I’ve always felt that people come (here) for the sunshine and stay for the people.”

The daylong event was held at the Dixie Center St. George and featured keynote speeches and breakout sessions that covered a wide variety of topics.

Attendees at the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Cox, instead of delivering a typical keynote speech at the close of the conference, decided to use the opportunity to record a live installment of his regular podcast series, called “Cox and Friends.” That different format enabled him to not only reach a wider audience, but also to hear different people’s perspectives on a broader range of topics, he told the lunchtime audience of nearly 900 conference attendees.

Joining Cox onstage for the podcast segments were his wife Abby Cox, his chief of staff Kirsten Rappleye and his friend Spencer Hall, communications manager of Rocky Mountain Power.

The four were in turn joined by three guests. First was Austen Allred, the founder and CEO of the innovative Lambda School, a Silicon Valley-based company that trains people online on how to write computer code and become software engineers. The school uses an unconventional approach to attract students: instead of paying tuition upfront, students can agree to pay a percentage of their income after they have finished the program and are employed (and only if they are making more than $50,000 per year).

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Allred and the other panelists shared ideas regarding the future of education and training workers in computer technology and other areas of technical expertise.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike was the next guest, sharing his perspectives about the city, its growth and its future, along with some of the changes and challenges the area is experiencing.

The final podcast guest was Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism. Varela talked about how Utah tourism continues to grow at a healthy pace, but noted that the state is not merely trying to bring in more people, but rather “bringing in the right kind of visitors.”

It’s about choosing your customers, she said, adding, “and making sure good customers come back over and over.”

In addition to five major national parks, Utah has 43 state parks, numerous ski resorts and many other recreational opportunities, she noted. The annual St. George Marathon was cited as a prime example of a community event that attracts a sizable share of outside visitors.

To listen to the “Cox and Friends” podcasts (including previous episodes), check @CoxFriendsPod on Twitter or visit the Cox and Friends section in the podcast portion of KSL News Radio’s website.

Austen Allred of Lambda School speaks during the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Kicking off the conference as the morning’s keynote speaker was Shawn Nelson, founder and CEO of The Lovesac Company, which makes oversized beanbag chairs and other furniture.

Later, during the “What’s Up Down South?” mid-morning general session, several speakers addressed the economic health of the St. George area.

Dixie State University President Richard Williams talked of the institution’s recent growth and current expansion efforts. Now with more than 10,000 students, DSU is the fastest growing university in the state, he said, adding that more than 42 new degree programs have been added since DSU started its five-year “status to stature” goal program in 2015.

Also making brief presentations about their companies were officials from Intermountain Healthcare, which is Washington County’s largest private employer; The RAM Company, which recently expanded its aerospace component manufacturing operations; and the new Joule Plaza development currently being built in downtown St. George.

In addition, Lecia Langston, economist for the state Department of Workforce Services shared data on various economic trends, painting a robust picture of Washington County.

Langston continued to break down economic trends in one of the breakout sessions that followed, showing attendees how they can access detailed employment and demographic information via the department’s website.

Other breakout sessions also took place throughout the morning, covering a wide range of topics, including opportunity zones, school trust lands, water issues, Zion National Park, real estate, affordable housing, tax reform and millennials in the workplace.

Closing remarks were also given by Jeriah Threlfall, president and CEO of the St. George Area Economic Development Office, which organized the summit.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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