Is Tourism the Key to Growth in Emery County?

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Emery County Economic Development and Tourism Press Release

Wide-open spaces, small-town charm—Emery County still has plenty of both. It also has something else: opportunity. The past year has seen a remarkable increase in new business growth, which is breathing new life into the local economy.

For local resident Brett White, it was simply a matter of seeing a need and doing something about it. There wasn’t a place where off-road riders could go to get their four-wheelers repaired, so he opened Castle Valley Small Engine in Castle Dale.

“People come out to explore the trails, and they usually bring their own machines,” he said. “In the past, if something broke down, the nearest shop was nearly 45 miles away.

Along Main Street in Orangeville, Camie and Doug Stilson opened Cup of Joe’s to serve the climbing community; the coffee shop is a popular spot for locals as well.

“We had so many people coming through town asking where they could get a good cup of coffee, and there really wasn’t a place for them to go,” Camie said. “So, we decided to change that.”

The lodging industry has seen growth as well. In 2016, there was only one Airbnb listing in Emery County. Now, there are eight and counting. The reports we are hearing from these owners are, “We get people from all over the world who come to explore Goblin Valley, the Wedge Overlook and bouldering in Joe’s Valley.”

There has also been an increase in visitation at local State Parks where those who are traveling to visit the National Parks have discovered the hidden gems of Emery County.

Some of this growth could be the result of a recent marketing campaign launched by the Economic Development and Travel Office of Emery County. Designed to increase awareness about the San Rafael Swell, the campaign resonated with travelers who were seeking to dodge the crowds that can usually be found around the Mighty Five.

An increase in tourism dollars has also provided a shot of fiscal adrenaline to local infrastructures. For example, Millsite Golf Course, Miner’s Memorials, the Museum of the San Rafael, the John Wesley Powell River History Museum as well as local trails and signage are all direct results of tourism dollars. Tourism also encourages the preservation of Emery County’s history and traditional customs (such as the Castle Valley Pageant and Lamb Fry) that might otherwise have been allowed to wane, but instead creates civic pride. Increased communications between locals and guests create a better cultural understanding and can help a small community become attractive to the world stage for future investors.

Every visitor has the potential to make a positive impact to the community. When a business owner is looking for a place to relocate or establish a business, rural Utah is not at the top of their list. Their thoughts lead to, “Will our family and employees enjoy the nearby activities, events and attractions available?”

If Emery County wants to work toward moving to the top of the list and be attractive to future investment and business opportunities, then tourism is a piece of it, since an investor will most likely come as a visitor first. This is one of the best tools to get Emery County on the map for future growth and human capital.

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