Utah Associations of Governments
Economic development is the process of leveraging a region’s unique competitive advantages to attract, retain, and grow businesses that create wealth for local residents. Since 1970 Utah’s seven Associations of Governments (AOGs) have convened communities across the state to design and implement effective regional strategies that have contributed to Utah’s recent performance ranking among the top states in the country in entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic growth.
No community acting alone can compete effectively in the global economy. Utah’s successful economic development track record is built on a strong foundation of regional collaboration. Utah’s seven AOGs are at the forefront of that regional collaboration, aligning community interests and resources toward the common goal of regional prosperity—the state’s “ground game” for economic development.
What is the role of AOGs in Utah’s economic development?
AOGs are trusted and experienced conveners of local communities to accomplish regional objectives. Economic development happens at the regional scale. Companies evaluating a market for a potential expansion or relocation analyze infrastructure readiness, availability of skilled labor, and other needs not according to local jurisdictional boundaries, but across them. Successful economic development requires strong coordination between cities, counties, school districts, utilities, and other types of organizations with service areas that may not line up exactly on a map, but all must work together quickly and effectively to take advantage of economic development opportunities.
AOGs are researchers and strategists. As federally-designated Economic Development Districts, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, AOGs are responsible for creating and implementing five-year comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS). CEDS plans are the roadmaps for prioritizing federal investment in regional economic development, based on the local priorities of communities in each region. CEDS plans are data-driven, outcome-oriented, and broadly inclusive of input from private and public sector stakeholders.
CEDS plans can be found at the following links:
AOGs are entrepreneurs. They do not levy taxes on Utah residents or businesses. Nor do they have any large, dedicated sources of revenue. AOGs, like regional development organizations across the country, have to be entrepreneurial to meet their goals of community and economic development. They identify opportunities, work with public and private sector stakeholders, raise money through grants and other sources of outside funding, and then implement solutions.
Map of Utah AOGs
How does the work of the AOGs align with state economic development efforts?
The vision for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) is for Utah to lead the U.S. as the best performing economy and to be recognized as a premier global business destination. GOED’s economic development strategy focuses on four key objectives:
- Strengthen and grow existing Utah business, both urban and rural.
- Increase innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.
- Increase national and international business.
- Prioritize education to develop the workforce of the future.
AOGs are leading many initiatives that align to GOED’s strategic priorities:
- Six County AOG, as part of its Permanent Community Impact Fund Board planning program, is actively engaged in supporting the future of coal study effort in partnership with the Rural Planning Group and Southern Utah University’s Utah Center for Rural Life.
- Capitalizing on one of Utah’s most important community and economic development assets—outdoor recreation—Mountainland AOG partnered with Utah County and seven cities to plan and develop the Murdock Canal Trail, a 17-mile track that will eventually connect to both the Jordan River and Provo Canyon trails. Since opening in 2013, the trail has attracted nearly 1.7 million users, including 20% of weekday morning users commuting to school or work.
- Southeastern Utah AOG is working with a coalition of service providers through Utah’s Business Expansion and Retention (BEAR) Program, Economic Gardening, Business Resource Centers, and the Rural Fast-Track Program to support local entrepreneurs and diversify the regional economy.
- Access to capital is a critical issue for all businesses, but especially for small enterprises in rural communities and first-time entrepreneurs. Five County AOG supports local entrepreneurship and business development by offering micro loans of up to $25,000 and bridge loans of up to $200,000 to supplement commercial financing.
- Workforce availability is the top ranking factor in most corporate site selection decisions, and workers must have access to affordable, quality housing. Uintah Basin AOG is active in housing development to ensure that low-income families and workers have a chance to fully participate as homeowners in local economies.
- Bear River AOG works with several regional partners to provide in-depth market research and technical assistance to local businesses. Known as economic gardening, this suite of services is critical for a small business’s ability to compete in domestic and international markets.
- A region’s ability to tell a compelling story about its unique competitive advantage—what assets make one region different from every other region in the country—is what separates the most effective economic development organizations in the information age. Wasatch Front Regional Council maintains a robust inventory of Geographic Information System (GIS) data as part of its Green Infrastructure asset mapping initiative.