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A Salt Lake firm has been selected to conduct a governmental analysis of current economies and assess the potential for entrepreneurial development in four southeastern Utah counties.

Bonneville Research this month was awarded a contract from the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments to do a market analysis and evaluate characteristics of corporate and entrepreneurial activity in Grand, San Juan, Emery and Carbon counties.The six-week evaluation is to include detailed inventories of existing commercial centers and available business space and support services, according to a proposal submitted to the Association of Local Governments. The purpose of the study is to determine the feasibility of establishing an "incubator" to help hatch new small businesses in the area.

An incubator is a facility designed to meet special needs of new startup businesses, offering tailored work space and shared office, information and management services.

Bonneville Research and Business Venture Specialists of Salt Lake City were the only firms to respond to the association's request for proposals. Bonneville's bid of $16,000 to prepare the study was accepted July 5 by the association board.

Research is to be completed by Aug. 31, said Dixie Barksdale, association economic development specialist. Thursday, July 19, the consultants are to meet in Price with a committee to launch the study. The meeting, at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Room at the College of Eastern Utah, is open to the public.

According to Bonneville's proposal, a unified commitment, shared vision and community consensus on what kind of development is needed and how it should occur are essential if southeastern Utah hopes to successfully compete with other cities for new businesses.

The firm will be working under direction of a four-county committee made up of representatives from a network of local work groups formed last month. Members of the localized groups represent government agencies, private industry, new businesses, financial and educational institutions, economic development and civic organizations, resource and other groups in communities stretching from Price to Montezuma Creek.

Barksdale said the groups will meet regularly to add to findings on current market needs, identify obstacles to economic development, discuss feasibility of business in- cubators as commercial development tools and contribute to a larger, nine-month economic development strategy program.

The incubator study is the first phase of the strategy for economic recovery in areas that have experienced severe losses, mainly in the mineral extraction industries. The association received $76,500 in matching funds earlier this year from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and local governments to develop the strategy program.

Federal grants have been responsible for start-up of most incubator facilities, which have gained a reputation as "change agents" in the transformation of economies based on large manufacturers to a diversity of small firms, according to a University of Minnesota study.

At a recent meeting of the Moab work group, Barksdale said an incubator is being considered in Grand County because of the number of unoccupied buildings that are available.

"There will be no suggestion of building a new facility," she said.

Barksdale has been conducting prebusiness planning workshops over the past year in the four counties and said 188 good ideas for new small businesses have come out of the sessions.

"My experience at this point is, if there are 188 possible new businesses in southeast Utah and most of those are planning to operate from their homes, a business incubator probably would be a feasible project, but there's a lot more to establishing an incubator than finding new businesses," she said.

By January, recommendations will be prepared, including development of incubators if it appears feasible, Barksdale said.



Economic woes in 4 counties

- Population decrease (1983 to 1988): Grand

- Population decrease (1983 to 1988): Grand - 18.24 percent; Emery - 13.74 percent; Carbon - 12.24 percent; San Juan - 1 percent

- Increase in people receiving public assistance (since 1983): Emery - 76 percent; Carbon - 44 percent; Grand - 44 percent; San Juan - 13 percent

- Decline in high-wage mining employment (1982 to 1989): Grand - 71 percent; Emery - 52 percent; Carbon - 51 percent; San Juan - 50 percent

- Unemployment levels (1987), compared to 6.3 percent statewide average: Emery - 14.9 percent; Grand - 10.9 percent; Carbon - 10.2 percent; San Juan - 8.5 percent

- Decline in retail activity (1982 to 1987): Emery - 50 percent; Grand - 34 percent; Carbon - 33 percent; San Juan - 30 percent