Southwest Utah Wine Industry Ripe for Expansion

This week the Five County Association of Governments, working in partnership with the Utah State University Extension Agriculture Program, hosted a field tour of vineyards and wineries concentrated in Washington County. The winemaking industry holds tremendous potential for job creation, economic diversification, agritourism, and is a possible avenue for lucrative agriculture evolution in rural areas. This gathering was coordinated in the effort to foster greater regional collaboration and to promote creative solutions to any barriers the industry is having towards growth. Five County AOG is thrilled to assist and support the expansion of this vibrant industry cluster within the region.

Due to moderate high-desert temperatures, areas throughout Southwest Utah and Washington County are well suited for grape growing. Winter weather stops short of bitter freezing cold and summer temperatures rarely reach the 110’s. This is important since grapes for winemaking need the cool evening periods to develop proper acidity which improves flavor. Elevation across the area also falls between the 2500′-5000′ prime vineyard threshold. Grapes are more water efficient to grow and have a higher yield per acre than traditionally widely cultivated crops in Utah, such as alfalfa. Soils throughout the region are also rich in volcanic basalt, which aids in drainage and leads to a distinct “terroir”, or flavor unique to the environment. These factors combine to make Washington County a prime area for winemaking that rivals competitors across the West Coast.

Many are unaware of the rich winemaking history here in Southwest Utah. Throughout the late 1800’s, the pioneers ran widespread operations which produced thousands of gallons of wine. Grape cultivation was a lucrative cash crop for these settlers that when turned into wine, could be used as church tithing and sold to California or other markets on the West Coast. Several local vineyards thrived throughout this period, such as the Naegle Winery in Toquerville, now a carefully preserved historic site, and a large operation ran by Swiss settlers in Santa Clara. New Mormon stances outlawing the consumption of alcohol and the gradual decline in product quality culminated to usher in the industry’s plunge to near nonexistence around 1892. Even so, vines with roots traced back to the pioneer days can still be found standing today across Washington County.

A talented group of winemakers in Washington County have revived this rich history and stand today as a shining example for homegrown entrepreneurship. Throughout the day we experienced impressive operations from the Water Canyon Resort and Winery located against the backdrop of the red cliffs in Hildale, to Zion Vineyards in Leeds. The group enjoyed lunch and productive conversation at Chanela Vineyards nestled against Pine Valley Mountain with the day culminating at Bold and Delaney Winery in scenic Dammeron Valley. Our route followed the Utah Wine Trail, which has been organized by the group as an opportunity to increase agritourism in the region and widen their visibility. These winemakers have also organized and participated in the Utah Wine Festival, an annual statewide competition and celebration of the craft.

The success of these operations is in no way due to government intervention, but by hard work and perseverance. These winemakers have made tremendous headway and are preparing to expand their enterprises across the board. It is our goal to find creative solutions to the myriad of expansion barriers identified by growers and vintners in the region. The industry is experiencing a widespread labor shortage, as well as a lack of educational and technical training resources. There also continues to be difficulty in acquiring water rights or aligning prime locations for vineyard operations with existing water resources. The progress made by these talented vintners is a testament to the growing demand for local products as well as the resiliency of the winemaking industry in Southwest Utah. FCAOG is determined to partner with the diverse group of organizations represented at this gathering to find region-wide solutions and aid this burgeoning sectors continued expansion.

Thank you to the Utah State University Extension, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Utah Farm Bureau, Washington County, Dixie Conservation District, Washington City Economic Development, and the vintners of Southwest Utah for organizing and attending!

Renewable Energy in Beaver

On October 7th, FCAOG hosted a field tour of renewable energy developments and resources concentrated in Beaver County. FCAOG was thrilled to partner with the Congressional Western Caucus to host Congressmen Christ Stewart, Dan Newhouse, Markwayne Mullin, Representatives from the US Economic Development Administration, Utah Association of Counties, and the Six County Association of Governments to discuss development on public lands, tour renewable power generation facilities, and learn about current research endeavors with tremendous future potential.

Beaver County is home to a impressive concentration of renewable energy resources, with a prominent cluster located on the sprawling rangeland just outside Milford. Throughout the day we learned about the multiple wind, solar and geothermal energy production facilities and toured the Align Renewable Natural Gas facility. The Align RNG plant is a collaboration between Dominion Energy and Smithfield Farms which captures renewable natural gas (methane) from commercial hog operations for use in commercial power generation and consumer heating. This process offers a productive solution for greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the environment as a biproduct of hog farming. Align produces 236,000 dekatherms of RNG annually, which is enough to heat 3,000 homes and is equivalent to taking 23,000 cars off the road.

During the mobile tour, Dr. Joseph Moore presented on the Utah Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), a cutting edge field laboratory where researchers can test, develop, and enhance advanced geothermal systems. FORGE is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Utah and sponsorship by U.S. Department of Energy. investigations began in 2020 after initial project construction and will run through 2024. The project is poised to eventually become a privately operated facility, creating clean, efficient, and renewable power as well as an abundance of high paying jobs for the community.

FCAOG thanks the Congressional Western Caucus, and the Offices of Congressmen Stewart, Newhouse, and Mullin for coordinating the Beaver Energy Field Tour!

EDA American Rescue Plan Programs – Investing in America’s Communities

Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

This EDA investment is the largest economic development initiative from the Department of Commerce in decades and will help communities across the country build back better.

Investing in America’s Communities includes: 

  • Build Back Better Regional Challenge ($1 billion) will capitalize on American ingenuity and American workers by providing a transformational investment to regions across the country to revitalize their economies.
  • Good Jobs Challenge ($500 million) is designed to help get Americans back in good-paying jobs. The program will develop and strengthen regional workforce training systems and sector-based partnerships with a focus on programs targeted at women, people of color and historically underserved communities.
  • Economic Adjustment Assistance ($500 million) grants will help hundreds of communities across the nation plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through projects tailored to meet local needs.  
  • Indigenous Communities ($100 million) program will work hand-in-hand with Tribal Governments and Indigenous communities to develop and execute economic development projects they need to recover from the pandemic and build economies for the future. 
  • Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation ($750 million) program will focus on revitalizing the hard-hit travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries and accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on these sectors.  
  • Statewide Planning, Research and Networks ($90 million) grants include funding for state planning efforts as well as grants to build Communities of Practice to extend technical assistance to support EDA’s work with grantees.  

The Economic Development Team is currently working in collaboration with regional stakeholders to spearhead coordination for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. This program is designed to build more resilient economies through the identification, development, and support of regional industry clusters. A number of industry clusters exist within the Five County EDD, therefore coordination with economic development professionals across the region will prove crucial towards identifying a cluster with the greatest potential for growth.

The five additional programs present numerous opportunities for Utah’s tourism sector, development of workforce training programs, and support for indigenous communities.

Working closely with the Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Economic Development (DRRE) Strategy Committee, FCAOG strives to coordinate the most comprehensive application of these programs across the region to achieve desired community-led development objectives. The Five County Association of Governments is committed to capitalizing on this tremendous opportunity and assisting our partners throughout the Southwest with utilizing any funds applicable in the most impactful way.

For more information on EDA’s ARPA Programs and to get involved contact Five County Economic Development

“The bottom line is: the American Rescue Plan meets the moment.”

President Joseph R. Biden

SBA Announces PPP Direct Forgiveness Portal

The U.S. Small Business Administration is launching a streamlined application portal to allow borrowers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans $150,000 or less through participating lenders to apply for forgiveness directly through the SBA.

“We are very excited about the new PPP portal for our businesses and lenders. In Utah, we have approved over 62,000 PPP loans under $150,000. This new portal will make it easier for Utah business owners to get their forgiveness quickly and turn their focus back to what they do best, running their business,” said Marla Trollan, SBA Utah District Director. “The portal will also free up the time for some of our lenders which will allow them to focus on and speed up the process for those with larger loans.” 

This new change will help rush relief to over 6.5 million smallest of small businesses which has been the Administration’s priority since day one. The new forgiveness platform will begin accepting applications from borrowers on August 4th 2021.  In addition to the technology platform, the SBA is establishing a PPP customer service team to answer questions and directly assist borrowers with their forgiveness applications.  Borrowers that need assistance or have questions should call (877) 552-2692, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST.

Borrowers that need assistance should call (877) 552-2692 or contact

the Saint George SBDC or the SUU SBDC

USU Extension Rural Online Initiative

Utah State University Extension recently received a $1.1 Million grant from the Economic Development Administration to support further development of the Rural Online Initiative program.

The Utah State University Rural Online Initiative Program provides rural communities with the resources, education, and training to maximize their workforce potential. First developed in 2018, the Rural Online Initiative began by offering a Master Remote Work Professional (MRWP) certificate and has since expanded to offer a Master Remote Work Leader (MRWL) certificate. Both the MRWP and MRWL programs are one-month certificate courses that teach participants the skills necessary to succeed in a remote work environment. The MRWL course, piloted in February 2020, provides training to organizational leaders on best practices and core skills needed when creating a remote work environment or leading a hybrid-remote staff.

Initially designed for businesses located along the Wasatch Front, both the Master Remote Work Professional and Model Remote Work Leader courses have seen tremendous success in the Southwest Region, specifically Beaver, Garfield, Iron and Washington Counties.

“In 2020, our remote work certification courses led to the creation of 167 new remote job placements in rural counties, which is equivalent to the economic impact of over 6,154 jobs in urban counties,” Said USU Extension Vice President Ken White in an EDA Press Release. The ROI Program has provided job placement for 55 individuals within the Southwest Region alone, spurring a tremendous impact in these low population rural areas. This job growth is equivalent to the economic impact of 1,465 jobs in urban counties.

The ROI Program proved to be particularly timely during the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic in early 2020. Paul Hill, ROI Program Director and Extension Professor explained how the ROI Program will help support businesses and local leaders in the post-pandemic workforce landscape. “Our research found that most U.S. organizations that implemented remote work in response to the pandemic considered the experience favorable,” Hill said. “We know from theory that a positive experience with an innovation on a trial basis increases the likelihood of adoption in the future. Ultimately, remote work reached a tipping point during COVID-19 and is here to stay. This means that businesses are evolving from being designed for the collective to being personalized to every individual. This specialized training program will coach business leaders through effectively developing remote work plans for their organizations so they can thrive in the future of work.”

View the full EDA press release HERE and visit USU Extension Rural Online Initiative to learn more about the future of work

Ultimately, remote work reached a tipping point during COVID-19 and is here to stay. This means that businesses are evolving from being designed for the collective, to being personalized to every individual

Paul Hill
Rural Online Initiative Program Director and Extension Professor

View the short documentary “Empowering Rural Utah Through Remote Work”

Entrepreneurship in Southwest Utah

A recent study conducted in 2020 by research group Science 24 Seven analyzes the thriving entrepreneurship community in Southwest Utah. The study ‘Fueling Economic Growth Through Entrepreneurship’ provides an initial assessment of the regions current entrepreneurial ecosystem and makes several data-driven recommendations for future expansion. Using the framework of an economic SWOT analysis at the baseline, the researchers then conducted an industry sector analysis in relation to similar regions in other states. By comparing the economic landscape of our region to similar regions across the country, they narrowed in on the areas in which entrepreneurs in Southwest Utah may have a comparative advantage.

Read the full report here or click the image below

St. George News Spotlights DRRE Plan, Recovery and Resiliency Initiative

Economic Development Planner Nathanuel Martinez recently sat down to speak with St. George News about his role and development of the Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Economic Development Plan (DRRE). This interview was an excellent opportunity to spread the word about our growing economic development team, while highlighting the steps we are taking to speed pandemic recovery and foster economic resiliency in Southwest Utah. Read the full interview by St. George News HERE

The Five County Association of Governments values all feedback from the community. Please submit all comments on the DRRE Plan to the Economic Development Team via the community response form on our DRRE Page.

1st Annual UZONA Chamber Business Expo and Career Fair in Hildale

On April 30th, the UZONA Chamber of Commerce will host its 1st Annual Business Expo and Career Fair in Hildale, Utah. The UZONA Chamber serves the business communities of Apple Valley and Hildale in Utah, as well as Colorado City, Cane Beds, Centennial Park, and the Kaibab Paiute Reservation in Arizona.

Hildale is located in the southeastern corner of the Five County region, while Colorado City lays in Northern Arizona’s Mohave County. The sister cities of Hildale and Colorado City share a unique business environment situated within an area known as the Short Creek Valley. These two intertwined communities are home to burgeoning retail, financial services, and manufacturing sectors, which are only separated by the Utah-Arizona State line.

The opportunity to live and work within these diverse communities has never been greater, with large manufacturing operations and several new financial services firms seeking to hire hundreds of new employees. Communities on both sides of the state line have also grown to be more business friendly and pro-development. Recently, the successful grand opening of Bee’s Marketplace, a large grocery store and dining establishment in Colorado City, has demonstrated the tremendous potential and willingness of the region to not only support new enterprise, but encourage it to thrive.

The Five County Association of Governments truly believes that as a region, together we prosper. By encouraging cooperation between different communities and promoting interstate commerce, we can foster a more resilient economic landscape in the Southwest.

For more information and to register for the 2021 Business Expo and Career Fair as a vendor or attendant visit uzonachamber.org

and connect with the UZONA Chamber of Commerce

SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund

“Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: help is here.”

Isabelle Casillas Guzman

Administrator, United States Small Business Administration

SBA Announces Official Restaurant

Revitalization Fund Application and Guidelines

The SBA has announced key details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF). The restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit sectors during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help bring jobs back and revive the industry, the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden, established the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA will administer the funds to the hardest-hit small restaurants.

Details on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available at www.sba.gov/restaurants

Ahead of the application launch and over the next two weeks, the SBA will establish a seven-day pilot period for the RRF application portal and conduct extensive outreach and training. The pilot period will be used to address technical issues ahead of the public launch. Participants in this pilot will be randomly selected from existing PPP borrowers in priority groups for RRF and will not receive funds until the application portal is open to the public. 

Following the pilot, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later date. For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Following the 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.

Contact the Saint George Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for more information and to begin the application process

GOED 2021 Impacted Small Business Catalyst Grant

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development has announced its most recent grant to assist Utah small businesses, nonprofits, and organizations recovering from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The $15 million 2021 Impacted Small Business Catalyst Grant will begin accepting applications on April 20, 2021, at 9 a.m. and closes on April 27, 2021, at 5 p.m. (MDT).

This grant will assist small businesses, nonprofits, and organizations that experienced

1) a high level of revenue decline in a consecutive four-month period in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, or

2) began operations after Jan. 1, 2020, and can demonstrate the effects of COVID‐19 on the business and

3) provide evidence of continuing solvency.

The first tranche of funds will be awarded to applicants that demonstrate a revenue loss of 90% or greater. If funds are still available, the application will open to businesses that demonstrate an 80% or greater loss. To learn more about eligibility, required documentation, additional program details, and submit applications, visit the 2021 Impacted Small Business Catalyst Grant page.

Any questions or inquiries about the Small Business Catalyst Grant may be directed to goedsupport@utah.gov.