When Angela Arnold was laid off at the end of last year, she didn’t know if she would find work that would let her stay in Carbon County. But then she got a job that keeps rural workers home by design. With training and support from a new company, Accelerant BSP, she answers calls from her house for HealthEquity, a Draper-based health savings account firm that manages over $5 billion for more than 3 million customers.
While the governor has heralded the rural push as unprecedented, there’s no clear path forward, and success might not be enough to reverse the trend.
Creating 25,000 jobs in those counties would represent the smallest amount of job growth in any consecutive four-year period this century, outside the Great Recession. From 2004 to 2008, before the recession settled in, rural Utah grew by more than 32,000 jobs. From 2012 to 2016, the counties grew by more than 27,000 jobs.
Economic analysts in the governor’s office said that the goal of 25,000 jobs is ambitious, but achievable, and takes into account the possibility that economic growth of recent years might not continue.
But rural Utah will need to improve technology infrastructure to “develop a 21st-century economy,” said Don Albrecht, director of the Western Rural Development Center, which works on rural economic development in 13 Western states. “The smartest investment would be to get high-quality internet, high-quality information technology in these places,” he said.
Arnold said Accelerant’s opening gives her hope for her hometown.
“I’m excited that a company will come into our little depressed area and say ‘I believe in you and we see you are valuable,’” she said as she choked back tears. “It’s good to know that somebody cares.”