With a unifying theme of “Together is Better,” the Ninth Annual Raising Kane Business Summit held at Stampin’ Up! on Friday, January 13, was an exciting review of what’s been happening, and forecast of what’s yet to come, for the southern Utah/northern Arizona area.

Kane County economic chair Matt Brown, along with Kelly Stowell of C.E.B.A., organize the annual January event that reviews and defines the current area economic climate and opportunities.

The speaker slate was lengthy, but Brown kept everyone minding their time limit, which provided for a fluid, informative meeting. (I’ll do the same, and include only several important comments from each speaker):

•Kane County Commission Chair Dirk Clayson cited new capital investments in the community – both infrastructure as well as business. Specific to the county, a new community center, of which the design will be completed in the next few months. He praised the collaboration between different agencies (including the Kane School District and Kanab City), in several projects coming to fruition. He also mentioned the asset Jackson Flat Reservoir will be, with many great possibilities in the future for water recreation.

•Kanab City Mayor Robert Houston said having involved partners has been the key to several project completions. He cited the completed new airport building (with Kane County), to be one in particular. There have been the completion of the tennis courts and skate park, which are heavily used. Two projects in the immediate future are planned with the Gardner Foundation at the city park, and Garkane Energy on a pavilion by the skatepark.

Houston said city building permits are really up, with 75 in 2015, and 110 in 2016! He said revenues were up more than $400,000 last year, and that was primarily due to tourism.

•Kane County Office of Tourism Director Camille Johnson feels she has the best job. She praised the great support her office receives from Kanab City and Kane County, of which both value tourism. She said the State Department of Tourism’s ‘Mighty Five’ ad campaign was the most successful in the U. S. Since that ad campaign brought so much growth, the next Kane County promotion will be ‘Road to the Mighty.’ This ad campaign will feature roads, places and sites you can find along the way when traveling to the heralded National Parks. The Travel Council’s new focus is on return visitors. The 2017 motto/mantra will be “Stay a little longer.”

With improving the tourist experience in mind, Danielle Ramsay and Carrie Smith have been organizing front line staff tours to better inform local business personnel on area sites and attractions that tourists might not know about.

•Willie Afeaki, manager Holiday Inn Express, said his staff is of utmost importance and he has worked toward not having to do the seasonal layoffs. They’ve used down time to cross-train employees. He stressed that hospitality is taking care of family. “If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your guests.”

•Chuck Spence spoke of Procurement Technical Assistance. “I help small businesses bid and win government contracts,” said Spence.

•Joel Smith is the CEO of Accelerant BS, and spoke about Opportunity Hubs. This is a company that brings urban companies into rural communities. “We’re finding better talent in rural communities,” said Smith. “It’s our intent to find a better wage for rural employees.” He praised the internet speed here, and said Kanab was very appealing as a location when it comes to technology offered.

•Barry Glazier, of Glazier’s Market, updated conference attendees on what was new at the store! He said Glazier’s had climbed on the dark sky bandwagon, and installed new LED outdoor lighting. He said that while it was initially costly, they felt it to be a sound move, both financially, and to do their part to preserve the valued dark skies of the area.

•Boyd Corry spoke about Juniper Ridge Restaurant. He mentioned his family’s longevity in this area with Kanab Custom Meats, and how much they like it here. He said after 37 years of ‘supplying’ restaurants with quality products, they decided to start their own! He said the partnership with chef Kurt Jacobson, and the location at the old Traveler’s Inn, is a winning combination. He encouraged people to come and try Juniper Ridge, where they can feed up to 300 people. He praised other local restaurants, and said Juniper would add to the growing foodie scene here. “We want to get everybody we know to come and see what we have,” said Corry. “We need to rise together.”

•Silva Battista talked about Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen. The vegan/vegetarian restaurant is owned by Greg and Julie Castle, and she and Francis Battista. “Kanab is coming into its own as a destination,” said Battista. She said Peekaboo featured eat-in, take-out, and half price pizza two nights a week, as well as live music every Friday night.

•Chef Shon Foster, for a great conservation starter, fed attendees some fabulous croissants for breakfast from the Kanab Creek Bakery! He is partnering with Walt Thirion, Marjorie Casse and Jason Neeley to open a great bakery that values teaching grateful sated customers an ‘educated bread experience.’ Along with his work at Sego, Chef Shon is working on his dream of Kanab becoming a culinary destination. “We want to keep creating the buzz,” said Foster.

Marjorie Casse agreed that making this area a foodie destination was important, and encouraged people to come in and get acquainted. (See story about Kanab Creek Bakery in the SUN next week!)

•From South Africa to Belgium to Germany to Fredonia...wait, what? While entrepreneur Wayne Hubert has a multi-country background, he’s found a home for his “Original Scrapbox” to be built by Jacob Cluff of Wood Design U.S.A. in Fredonia. Sales are going crazy for the scrapbooking and sewing cabinets that organize a crafter’s materials. “The labor force here is unequalled,” said Hubert.

•Derek Miller, President and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, served as chief of staff to Governor Gary Herbert, and also as the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Director. His private sector organization helps Utah companies think, act and do business globally. To that end, he holds seminars and forums around the state. “The services we provide are free, since Utah pays us,” said Miller. He spoke of trade missions abroad, as well as hosting ambassadors to lay connections for doing business globally. “Utah has the fastest growing economy in the U.S. and is fourth in the country in export trade.”

Miller said there are three principles that Utah is doing well at: 1) They are fiscally prudent; 2) They demonstrate global leadership; 3) They value free enterprise and individual liberty. He encouraged anyone interested in learning more to contact him at www.DerekMillerUtah.com

•Micah Young-Restoring Valley Homes, was not in attendance, but Matt Brown shared the schoolteacher’s business of renovating old homes, as well as constructing mini-house vacation rentals. He has four units in Orderville, and has renovated 25-30 homes in St. George.

(escape2eastzion.com)

•Jake Millard, of Zion Ponderosa Ranch, told of his family’s business, and its beginning some 22 years ago. He said they too, were making some new major investments. “We’re taking a step forward!” From Conestoga wagons with a king and two double beds, to 20 different ‘glamping’ (fancier camping in glamour) tents, new double tennis courts and a pond, Zion Ponderosa is looking to a bright future. With their expansion, they will be able to lodge about 800 a night. “This is exciting for us,” said Millard. “We want everyone to catch it. We’re all in when it comes to Zion and Kane County!”

•Kevin McLaws, of Zion Mountain Ranch, said East Zion businesses have banded together, and embrace the ‘cooperation versus competition’ concept. “We have a real opportunity for this area to be a showcase.” McLaws updated attendees on the multi-generational ranch that features family homesteads, resort and cabin stays, and of course, it’s signature buffaloes! “This county has a real opportunity to keep it special.”

•Vicki Hooper, of the Kane County Volunteer Center, said that in Kane County there were 31,120 volunteer hours by registered volunteers in 2016. With volunteer time valued at around $23.56 an hour nationally, Kane County reaped the rewards of $733,187 of labor they didn’t have to pay for! Everyone is grateful to the Volunteer Center!

•Red Hills Manufacturing was given the Volunteer Business of the Year Award. Keiren and Bill Chatterley provided three employees (on their own dime) during the holiday season to the volunteer center to help out with Sub for Santa.

•Lunch was provided by Matty’s Deli.