Kane County Commissioners Dirk Clayson, James Matson and Doug Heaton, along with Kane County’s Economic Development Director Matt Brown, presented statistics and their thoughts on issues affecting economic development in the county to the Kanab City Council at their meeting on February 28.

Utah’s economy is the second fastest growing in the U.S. and in Kane County, new growth is doubling the tax base. The role of governments, as outlined in Governor Gary Herbert’s Economic Summit, is “to create fertile ground in which private enterprises can succeed.”

To this effect, the commissioners stated that they have reviewed the county’s regulations affecting businesses and eliminated or modified over 300 of them, thereby taking an active role in economic development.

Matt Brown presented some interesting demographics, stating that the county has a significantly lower age population between 20-40 and much higher in the 60-80 range than the state.

The workforce is comprised of 44% women and 56% men, with 25% in government roles (comprising 32% of the payroll), 29% in the hospitality sector (18%), 15% in non-profit, namely Best Friends (20% and retail 26% (8%). The government and hospitality sectors have grown 20% in the last three years. Kanab and the county has a healthy retirement income, but a poor wage level.

“There’s an imbalance between production jobs, which provide higher wages, and service related jobs in our community,” Brown stated.

Brown went on to say that the school age population has decreased in Kanab and Fredonia, and National Park visitation has leveled off. However, traffic at the 100 East and 300 South light is averaging an incredible 9,000/day.

There are 272 people in Kane County unemployed, as compared to 125 in 2006, although the work force numbers are the same. Families receiving Care and Share donations are up 28% from a year ago. Kane County had 332 building permits issued in 2006 and only 25 last year, with 13 of those in Kanab.

With 55% of the county’s population, Kanab generates only 40% of sales and saw a decrease in food sales from $15.2 million in 2008 to $12.2 million in 2011, indicating shoppers are going out of town.

Commissioner Heaton said his concerns are with land use regulations on private property. “Government needs to provide an environment that assists individuals to do what they want with their property, within reason,” said Heaton. He believes government should restrain itself in developing land use regulations that inhibit reasonable development.

“Sales tax is another issue that thwarts economic development in the county when it’s 1-2% higher than most of the state. People buying big ticket items can save a significant amount of money buying elsewhere, which then actually lowers the county’s sales tax income,” remarked Heaton.

Commissioner Clayson commented on ordinances affecting businesses. “What ordinances are necessary and which of them act as stumbling blocks for businesses? That’s why we examined our regulations and eliminated many of them,” he reiterated. He is hopeful natural gas can be brought to Kanab, which is only one of three cities of any size that doesn’t have this utility service.

Mayor Nina Laycook was given a plaque by Kanab’s insurance provider, Utah Risk Management Association, represented by Dean Steele, for excellence in risk management. “Risk management includes more than just eliminating dangerous hazards under the city’s control, but dealing with people professionally and courteously. People don’t tend to sue people they like,” Steele reminded the city fathers.

During the public comment period, Joan Thacher asked the council to put the Citizen’s Initiative regarding the Viresco hydrogasification plant on a future council agenda.

Related to the Viresco issue, this reporter asked what the council’s reaction and response was to Guthrie’s initiating earth moving operations at the site before all the pending decisions, including that by the city case manager that is independently reviewing the application process regarding Viresco’s coal burning plant, have been made.

Visually, most of the council members looked perturbed, but did not have anything to say about it to the people in attendance. City Manager Duane Huffman commented that the city doesn’t traditionally issue grading permits.

The council did discuss the Citizens Initiative to put to a vote whether or not Kanab voters favor Viresco building this experimental plant inside the city limits. Initiatives like this one qualify for a special election, which could be held in June, or it can be put on the ballot for November’s General Election. Councilman Ed Meyer favors the November date, saying, “the more of Kanab’s citizens voting on this issue the better.”

The council has to pass an ordinance selecting a date 50 days before the election date specified.

Voting on Kanab’s proposed $3.5 million 2011-2012 budget was postponed pending further discussion of some budget items.

However, the council voted in favor of authorizing the construction of the fire training facility requested by Fire Chief Joe Decker. The funding for this $32,800 building at the city yard on the east side of Kanab will come from the $70,000 in impact fee monies the city has on hand, which has to be encumbered by the end of the fiscal year or refunded.

It is anticipated that the reusable building will be used, not only to train Kanab’s volunteer firefighters, but those of other surrounding communities.

Decker also told the council that servicing of the department’s ladder truck was needed, and noted how use of this truck saved the house at 330 East and 200 South from all but roof damage earlier this winter.