Interview with Julie Millard, general manager, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort
Julie Millard spent her early years as a math and computer sciences teacher at Hillcrest High School. This experience served her well later in life, preparing her for opportunities that continue to come her way, teaching and training more than 140 staff members at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.
As general manager, Millard has a knack for helping others succeed. Whether teaching math to teenagers or working with resort staff members, her patience and desire to see others to succeed is paramount.
Millard started her career at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort as a front desk manager. For over two decades, she has been involved in all facets of the resort and was named general manager in 2016. Her passion for the resort, and commitment to helping families make lasting memories, is what she loves about her job. Most of her children graduated in hospitality management and work in managerial roles at the resort, helping their family dream come true.
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort has several amenities, including several lodging options ranging from tent camping to deluxe glamping. Visitors can also enjoy an assortment of dining options, including dining at Ray’s restaurant to dutch oven dinners. The resort also offers a wide range of recreational activities, including Jeep tours, horseback riding, guided hiking and canyoneering, to name a few.
How did you get started in the industry?
My grandfather purchased Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort in 1962. The ranch is located on 4,000 acres against the eastern boundary of picturesque Zion National Park. In 1995, my family started developing the land as a destination resort, and our dream became a reality.
What recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of? Since coming to the resort 23 years ago, I’ve participated in the growth of the resort from a modest operation with 16 cabins to now over 90 individual accommodations, including seven different lodging types.
I am also proud that we now implement post-visit surveys where guests can rate their overall experience. Feedback from these surveys has helped us to make necessary adjustments, such as improvements in the methods we employ for hiring and training staff members. These surveys enable us to provide a more polished and diverse guest experience, making the resort one of the top adventure resorts in the United States.
What drew you to Utah?
I was born in Brazil but primarily raised in Utah and attended Brighton High School. While I was teaching, my husband and I lived in Sandy, and in 1997 we made the big move to southwestern Utah. We raised our children in Orderville, and continue to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and our small-town life. Now, we have seven grandchildren, and they also enjoy the spectacular landscape that surrounds us.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
I love living in the most beautiful state in the country. The natural beauty never ceases to amaze me, and I appreciate being surrounded by three national parks, two national monuments and a national forest. I also enjoy living in a community where we can take time to connect with friends and family and share unique experiences.
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
Tourism is a large part of the Utah economy. Approximately 75% of our visitors come from out-of-state or internationally, and we help import millions of dollars into our state economy, lessening the tax burden on local residents.
We are incredibly proud the ranch purchases a large number of goods and services from local and state suppliers. We appreciate doing business with hardworking people that also choose Utah as their home.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business, to Utah?
Our state is fortunate to have one of the strongest economies in the U.S., offering a stable and highly educated workforce. Utah is a great place to consider starting the right business.
It’s important to do thorough research and carefully analyze the dynamics of the marketplace. Businesses that do their research, obtain favorable financing and find the right niche, have great opportunities for success in Utah.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
The weather. The resort is at a 6,500-foot elevation, and travel is less appealing in the winter season. Seasonal travel patterns can also cause increased staff turnover due to revenue fluctuations.
What is your business philosophy?
Be passionate about what you do and how you do it.
When you make mistakes, own them, and solve them quickly and fairly.
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
I was an avid skier until I had kids. I hadn’t skied for over 30 years until recently. I went skiing again, and it was just like riding a bike. I still love it!