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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments to develop a comprehensive program for economic recovery in three counties.

The grant from the Economic Development Administration provides 65 percent of total costs for developing a strategy to help the Southeastern Utah Economic Development District adjust to severe economic losses due to a decline in mineral-extraction industries over the past decade."The strategy will address all segments of the economy - what can we do with what we've got, basically, and . . . to identify other funding sources that are appropriate to apply to as well," said Jack Ockey, district economic development representative for the EDA in Salt Lake City.

The federal funds, to be matched with $26,500 in local money, are provided under Title 9 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 as part of the Sudden and Severe Economic Dislocation Strategy Program.

Dixie Barksdale, economic development specialist for the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, said the grant was based on the loss of nearly 2,500 jobs between 1985 and 1989 in Grand, San Juan, Emery and Carbon counties.

Barksdale said the association of governments received word of the funding and approved the grant proposal in mid-April. The grant was awarded April 4 by the EDA in Washington, D.C.

Grand County was not specifically named as a grant recipient because job losses were less severe than in the other counties, but Grand will benefit from the districtwide program because it is part of the four-county market area, Barksdale said.

The nine-month project will involve studies addressing the immediate and long-term effects of job losses from mine closures and the potential for developing jobs and providing meaningful opportunities for former mine employees, Barksdale said.

"An additional objective is to reduce the potential for suffering future job losses, through greater diversification of the existing economic base," she said.

Objectives of the strategy program are to:

-Change the image of distressed communities to "opportunity areas."

-Evaluate the physical appearance and promotional efforts of commercial areas in the region and provide suggestions for potential markets.

-Provide comprehensive business assistance, including loans and start-up funds, to ensure survival and growth of existing firms and to foster new business development.

-Develop a catalog of prospective new businesses and entrepreneurial enterprise with assessments of potential success and job creation, based on a current inventory and evaluation of existing businesses.

-Study the feasibility and provide financial planning for converting redundant or unused buildings into business "incubators" to assist small businesses in startup activities in shared facilities.

-Encourage public-private partnerships to unite resources to provide for the financial needs of new businesses, including the establishment of a micro-loan fund and other local programs.

Oakey said application will be made for a second grant of up to $1 million to implement proposals after the strategy is developed.

"We're looking at developing the economy - turning it around."