Economic Development effort looks to 2022

The San Juan County Economic Development office welcomed some new faces in 2021 and is looking forward to jump-starting economic growth in 2022 with $200,000 in grant funding. The office is busy early in 2022, starting with administering a $200,000 grant received from Utah Rural Grant Funding. The vast majority of the funding will be redistributed through a county business retention and expansion grant.

In a January 7 interview with Red Rock 92.7 FM, Economic Development Director Elaine Gizler said $163,000 will be allocated to San Juan County businesses who apply for the funding. At least 12 applications have been submitted to the office for funding, with applications closing on Friday, January 14 at 5 p.m. The applications will then be reviewed by the Community Economic Development Board. Gizler says the board will want to make sure the money will be put to good use to generate more revenue for the county. In addition to the $163,000 allocated to local businesses in 2022, the office has set aside $10,000 for daycare expansion in the county. San Juan County Business Development specialist Ben Nielson explains that the county is working with Utah State University and reaching out to the San Juan School District in order to help coordinate resources for interested applicants to expand daycare services in San Juan County. The economic development and visitor services office is also setting aside $3,000 for educational grants to be awarded to high school seniors.  With $750 awards available for further education to be awarded to seniors in each school in the county, Gizler hopes the fund will help keep students in the area. “The goal is to quit exporting our kids out of San Juan County,” said Gizler. “We want to retain... children here near their families and really grow the community by having our children live here.”

Other uses for the $200,000 grant from the state include funds set aside to help facilitate employee training opportunities for county businesses. The office is also planning to host an entrepreneur Shark Tank later in the year to help county entrepreneurs with seed money. In addition to state grant funding, the economic development office is seeking a $5 million grant from the federal government to build an indoor rodeo arena at the county fairgrounds. If funded, the rodeo arena could seat up to 2,000 people with a commercial kitchen and meeting space. The center could also feature a replaceable floor to hold other events, including graduations, basketball and wrestling tournaments, and Native American cultural events. In their last meeting of the year, the San Juan County Commission ratified a $6,500 contract with Jones & DeMille for a preliminary engineering report for the Fairgrounds Event Center grant application.   Once the report is produced, the county will submit an application to the Denver office of the US Economic Development Administration. The federal agency received $750 million of American Rescue Plans funds for economic growth projects across the US. The Economic Development and Visitor Services office is back at full staff after a year of understaffing.

Gizler began her position in August of 2021. She moved to San Juan County after serving in similar positions in Grand County and the Moab Area Travel Council for the past six years. With Gizler on board, the office also has greeted two new faces at the end of 2021. Ben Nielson is an Economic Development Business Specialist. A long-time resident of Monticello, Nielson will focus on business retention and expansion, as well as the collection of business and econom

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