IRON COUNTY — During the Iron County Commission meeting on Monday, the commission created the Iron County Economic Development Advisory Board to help the county qualify for grant funding. There was also discussion of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In regards to the advisory board, Cedar City Economic Development Director Danny Stewart told the County Commission that the state Legislature created the Utah Rural Counties Grant Program when Senate Bill 95 was passed in March. The program allows rural counties in the state to apply for grants for economic development – either an annual grant in the amount of $200,000 or a competitive grant in the amount of $800,000.
Stewart said that in order to apply for the grant, the county must have an economic development advisory board.
He said the Cedar City Economic Development Department is set up as a partnership between the city and Iron County and suggested that Cedar City’s current economic development advisory committee be appropriated into the county’s advisory board.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to have two different committees working against each other, and our existing committee covers the requirements for most of the seats for the county board,” Stewart said. “I’m proposing a resolution today that would transform our existing economic development committee into the Iron County Economic Development Advisory Board.”
The proposed resolution would retain current members of the committee and add any others required by the state to qualify for the grant funding.
Stewart said current members of the committee include the Cedar City mayor, a Cedar City Council member, a county commissioner, an Iron County School Board member, a member of the water conservancy district board and the executive director of the Small Business Development Center.
“The ones that we need to add to this is someone who represents workforce development, a private sector representative and a member of the public who lives in Iron County,” he said.
Stewart added that he feels it’s important for the northern area of the county, such as Parowan and Paragonah, as well as the western portion of the county be represented within the board.
“Hopefully we have a good well-rounded representation of public, private and elected officials to move forward and look at the types of economic development projects that will really move the needle here in Iron County,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Bleak said currently committee members are appointed by the Cedar City mayor, but the creation of the county board would make the Iron County Commission responsible for those appointments going forward.
“It just makes sense to really take the committee that we already have in place,” Bleak said. “It would basically just move into another one of our county boards that we as commissioners would be responsible for appointing those positions.”
The resolution passed with unanimous vote.
Update on COVID-19
Commissioner Paul Cozzens provided a brief update on items related to the coronavirus and stated during department reports that he is hoping for restaurants to be able to re-open on Friday.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with state leadership and our local chamber of commerce,” he said. “We’re hoping for the governor to move from red to orange May 1, so our restaurants can reopen.”
The color designation was announced April 17 by Gov. Gary Herbert as part of his “Utah Leads Together 2.0” plan and established various levels by which parts of the state may loosen coronavirus-related restrictions.
According to a report the commission received, there have been 87 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Beaver, Iron, Kane, Garfield and Washington counties. Of those, 58 have recovered and none are currently being hospitalized. There have been two deaths in the five counties and 41 deaths in the state. There have also been 4,238 tests for the virus performed.
Cozzens said as he has interacted with business owners and said it is “shocking how interconnected our economy is.”
He said restaurant closures have impacted several other businesses as well, and he added that he hopes the county’s economy is able to return to normalcy soon.
Along these lines, following an analysis from the Iron County Auditor at the April 13 County Commission meeting detailing potential financial impacts to the county as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from the Iron County Auditor, the County Commission drafted a statement requesting Iron County be excluded beyond May 1 from future extensions of public health orders issued by the Utah Department of Health.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.