Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for January 25, 2013
Kane County Business Summit 2013
The 2013 Kane County Business Summit, hosted by Kelly Stowell- Center for Education, Business and the Arts and Matt Brown- Kane County Economic Development, was held January 16-17 at Stampin’ Up.
Lt. Governor Greg Bell
It kicked off with a presentation by Utah Lt. Governor Greg Bell explaining why Utah was voted the top state for business and what the state has to accomplish to retain this position.
Bell quoted the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Utah is the brightest star on the American flag,” in acknowledging its position as the most business-friendly state in the union, according to Forbes magazine.
“Businesses like our work force,” said Bell, “because our work force shows up for work.” He added, “They are an educated, capable and hard-working people, willing to do the job at hand.”
“Education is the key to the new economy,” emphasized Bell. “We’re now keeping more of our college educated youth working in the state after graduation because we have more opportunities in business and industry with companies relocating to Utah,” Bell said.
“We spend 48.6% of our tax money on education amounting to $6356/student. New York spends only 24.4% of their taxes on education, but spends $10,499/student. However, we do have 40% more children than the U.S. average and a population growth rate of 1.5% as opposed to states like Iowa and Nebraska with half that rate,” he cited.
By 2018, 66% of the available jobs will require a post secondary education – college, trade school or specialty training – and presently 44% of those seeking work have this type of education after high school.
Of great concern is that the majority of the top ten fields that students are majoring in like general studies, nursing and business, are not what is needed most in the high paying job markets.
Engineers, especially electrical, mechanical and nuclear, along with computer-related specialties, will be in short supply if the current major trends continue. “Math is essential to these occupations, and math is a subject that is built on year after year starting in grad school. It’s been shown that reading ability in third grade is a strong predicator of one’s later social status,” he stated.
Commenting on rural economic development, Bell said, “Location limits rural opportunities, and it becomes imperative that these small communities cultivate their own ‘economic gardens’ in supporting and sustaining local entrepreneurs.” Related to Kanab, he commented that tourism provides one of every nine jobs in Utah.
Greg Powell talked about customer service strategies. In surveying business around his hometown of Cedar City, he found that many had an unexpected good 2010-2011. “Those were the ones that became more customer-friendly and eliminated wasteful practices,” said Powell.
“Exceptional service can intensify loyalty to the point that a business is impervious to competitor options,” he continued. If customers are only satisfied with their experience with your business, you’ll retain 40% of them. But, if they are very satisfied, you’ll see close to 100% of them return because of the emotional connection they developed in their previous encounter. Customer service is a process requiring ongoing commitment.”
Powell stated there were areas businesses must consistently strive for to be successful.
“Reliability is the most important,” he said. “This means your service or product must be dependable and consistent. Tangibles like the appearance of the facility and equipment is important. Responsiveness, or the willingness to help, is essential. Assurance, or your knowledge and courtesy are next. Finally, empathy or the ability to individualize service makes a huge difference.”
The morning sessions on January 17 were led off by Larry Johnson of the Alton Coal LLC, talking about the Coal Hollow strip mine operation just south of Alton, Utah in Kane County.
Johnson, an engineer from Carbon County, related that 95% of the work force at the mine are locals making good wages.
Presently they are working on 435 acres of private land that started in 2011 and have removed 2.5 million tons (MT) of the estimated five MT available on that tract. They are well along the process of leasing 3500 acres of federal land, with an estimated 45-50 MT of coal to be mined, plus another eight MT on another section of private land wedged between the federal land. It amounts to roughly 60 MT to be mined at about two MT/year for a 30-year mine duration.
“The Coal Hollow mine is a no discharge mine – meaning that no effluent can be released into land surrounding the mine operation,” related Johnson. “We have made preparations to deal with a 100 year and 24 hour events, and we’ve already had a 100 year and two 10 year events up there, with no discharge beyond our boundaries. We are continuously being monitored by various agencies.”
He concluded by commenting on the land reclamation process, saying, “We have a concurrent reclamation process whereby we are not waiting until our mining operations are all finished before we rebuild the impacted lands,” said Johnson. “We begin reclamation procedures after every 120 acre footprint. When we start a mine section, we remove vegetation first, then pile the topsoil, followed by the subsoil and finally, the Tropic shale before we get to the coal. When we finish removing the coal on the 120 acres, we reverse the process and top it off by drilling and reseeding in the fall and spring. We have a 10 year window on reclamation in that if the land is not restored, we are obligated to redo it.”
Jim Guthrie, president of Viresco Energy, which has been permitted to construct a pilot steam hydro-gasification plant on land within the south city limits of Kanab, explained the purpose and use of Viresco’s process for converting carbon based biomass into methane and other useful gases.
“Our company has exclusive licensing options for this technology, which is different from related hydro-gasification technology, in that we employ steamed hydrogen to speed up the conversion process,” he began. “We can take everything from coal and farm crops, to plastics and animal wastes, and convert them into methane (a renewable natural gas, which is their focus product); Fisher/Trosch diesel fuel used in jet fuels; and hydrogen gas employed in electrical power generation. Carbon monoxide (CO) is also generated and can be used in certain mining operations,” said Guthrie.
A simplified equation follows: A carbon source + H2O heated to steam (producing H2- an accelerant, which is later recycled into the process) produces CH4 (methane) + H2 (hydrogen) + CO2 (carbon dioxide) and CO.
The CO2 produced is 10-15% less than that generated by coal burning power plants, and other noxious gases like nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide – problematic air pollutants from coal burning plants – are not generated in this process, according to Guthrie. The synthetic natural gas (methane) can be converted into other energy-generating products in other plants.
As opposed to what are called air separation plants that utilize oxygen in the hydro-gasification process, this process achieves a 15-18% increase in efficiency over the 40% efficiency of these other operations, while not consuming O2 and producing less CO2.
“This is a thermo-chemical process, as opposed to a partial oxidation process most often employed in hydro gasification of carbon based fuels,” affirmed Guthrie.
The pilot plant, which Guthrie expects to start constructing by May, is limited to burning no more than 5T of coal on the 20-25 days in the year they plan to burn. “If we exceed that or attempt to produce one of these products from the gasification, we would need to acquire additional permits and commit to state standards for emission requirements,” he concluded.
Kanab resident Terry Edwards, representing the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Page, Arizona, spoke about the largest coal fired generating plant west of the Mississippi River, which produces 2250 megawatts (mW) of electricity daily to provide power for three million people in the southwest.
It burns 24-25,000 tons of coal each day, which is transported from the Kayenta mine on Black Mesa in the Navajo Reservation by an electrical railroad to Page.
The NGS is owned by the Salt River Project and six partners, most notably the Bureau of Reclamation, and was constructed in the early 1970’s to supply electricity for the Central Arizona Water Project (supplying 85% of Arizona’s citizens with water) and power to Phoenix and Tucson. It was built as a compromise with environmentalists to building two more dams in Marble Canyon along the Colorado River, more than 20 miles downstream from the Glen Canyon dam.
The economic impact of the NGS to Arizona through 2044 is projected to be $20.5 billion.
Currently it pays $100 million/year in wages and benefits and $50 million yearly to the Navajo and Hopi tribes for coal leases. The NGS has 520 full time employees at the plant, with 86% being Navajo and 418 at the Kayenta mine, with 91% Navajo.
Environmental impacts have been addressed since the 1990’s when wet limestone scrubbers, (what do you think those double belly trucks are hauling from Nevada on their return from hauling ash from the NGS), and electrostatic precipitators were installed on the three burn units, at a cost of $400 million to trap fly ash and remove 90% of the sulfur dioxide (SOX) emissions.
Nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions have been reduced by 40% in the last seven years by installing scrubbers on the three boilers, but remain a problem for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Monitoring of particulate matter is done around Page, which averages 2.1 micrograms/cubic meter of air, where 0-12 ucg/m3 is considered good and fares much better than the winter air in Flagstaff, where wood burning is prevalent, or in Phoenix where motor vehicle emissions create pollution.
Addressing the issue of visibility in the Grand Canyon, Edwards affirmed that sources of NOX, including the NGS, contribute only 4% to the decrease in visibility in the canyon, whereas smog from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, along with controlled and natural burns in the Kaibab National Forest, contribute the majority of contaminants.
In closing, Edwards gave this comparison to think about, saying, “It takes 175 acres of solar panels to generate 19 mW of electricity and therefore it would take 47,000 acres of panels to generate the 2250 mW per day the NGS does, and that’s only on a sunny day.”
Brigham Mellor, of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, provided information backing up Forbes best state for business rating.
Boeing Aircraft and GAF Corp. are moving some of their operations into Utah, and eBay call centers will come with 3,000 new jobs. One reason for eBay’s move is that 33% of the workforce speaks a foreign language, which benefits worldwide call centers. Another is lower cost labor overall, about 22% less than the national average for similar jobs in southwest Utah.
Perhaps the number one reason for a lower pay scale relates to the fact that 86% of students graduate from high school in the state, but only 29% graduate from college. So over 70% of young people are looking at relatively low paying jobs, which attracts these types of businesses.
Mellor said that 10% of businesses that just call for information on the state end up relocating here, whereas 50% of those that actually visit the state do so. “Even if a business does not move into your town, there are regional impacts that provide your town benefits, including commuting jobs and indirect spillover effects,” he emphasized.
In relation to Kanab, he said state tourism was up 14.5% last year, with traveler spending up 19.3%. Traffic on Hwy 89 through Kanab averaged 4,335 vehicles daily.
Len Erickson, of the Small Business Development Center in Kane and Washington Counties, said that high paying production jobs were lost because companies moved their manufacturing operations overseas.
“Miners in this country are making the same wages as they did 30 years ago,” he remarked.
As to importance of small businesses to Utah’s economy, he stated that 51% of the work force is in small business and 55% of all jobs are related to small businesses, and 47% of all goods and services sold.
However, three out of four small businesses fail, not so much as a failure of their product, but a lack of enough start-up capital and customers.
“One must be reasonably assured that there is a market for your service or product, so you’ve got to get out and test your hypothesis, test your product. and stop selling, start listening before jumping into the mix,” Erickson stressed. “Pare down your line of products to a minimum viable set of items that sell. Cultivate customer relationships and what they want from you,” he said.
Colette Cox, of Southwest Area Technical College in Kanab, believes, “Education changes lives, and cannot be taken away from you. The higher the education, usually, the better the employee.” SWATC has technical and trade programs, along with college prep courses. Dixie State and Utah State also have online courses that can lead to a college degree.
Glenn Price, founder of Brand Iconic, started developing branding platforms for small businesses after a business career in New York City that maximize the small budgets these enterprises have for advertising. To quote one of his mentors, Seth Godin, “A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that make a person choose one brand over another.” An iconic brand is one that stands out and is remembered.
Price reiterated, “Kanab can be iconic because of an ongoing set of expectations, memories and stories visitors develop. Respecting a visitors individuality, but evoking a sense of their belonging here while they are here, brings them back.”
He went on saying, “To be iconic, you must mine, define and design. Mining your resources in the community takes a lot of development. Refine ideas by doing reality checks, consulting focus groups and getting rid of the ‘dirt’ to cleanly describe your identity.”
“By design, Kanab is becoming associated with events like the Grand to Grand race, the upcoming 200 mile Ragnar Nation relay race at Zion Ponderosa, and the Impossible2Possible, Running Through Time paleontology race through the GSENM in May.”
Frontline Public Involvement is a group sponsored by UDOT assigned to disseminate information on Utah highway projects. They have contracted with 12 businesses along Highway 89 to provide feedback on progress and issues involving the full depth reconstruction of the thoroughfare. Businesses can request to be surveyed prior to the project, should there be a damage claim afterward.
The work will begin in mid-February and run for 120 days to June 15 weather permitting. Work on Hwy 89A will be less involved.
For an update on the project after it begins, you can e-mail www.Kanab89.com or call 1-800-253-8946.
Kanab’s new Chamber of Commerce President Jeannie Hunt had the answer for anyone worried about the downside of the Hwy 89 reconstruction. “Kanab will be undergoing a colonoscopy, but when it’s over we won’t remember a thing,” she declared to the audience’s delight.
Hunt seeks a more inclusive Chamber membership, with every member having a vote. “We’re starting a shop local initiative,” she announced.
Leigh Van der Esch
Keynote lunchtime speaker Leigh Van der Esch followed by saying, “Local businesses bring unique characteristics to your community. Travelers are looking for authentic experiences on their visits to a place and providing those can bring them back to your town.”
In closing, she said, “Locally spent money stays local. For every $100 spent with a national retailer, $13.60 stays in Utah, but if spent with a local business, $52 stays in Utah. For a chain restaurant versus a local one, it’s $30.40 vs. $78.60.”
The 100+ people in attendance enjoyed lunch provided by Honey’s Deli and entertainment by Kanab High School’s X-Press Choir.