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To help local economies, Utah is hiring rural and remote workers


September 21, 2021

Part of a series on Utah’s rural development programs.

Abigail Borrego has known all the hustle and bustle of big city life. But when it came time to raise a family, she wanted to return to a smaller area of ​​Utah, with no traffic, no pollution, and no smaller classrooms for her children. “I like being able to avoid traffic. I like the small population. Where we live we are close to the mountains and have access to national parks, entertainment and shopping,” said the Medicaid program specialist, 46. . “If I could stay out of the big cities, I would be happy for the rest of my life.

Borrego is among a growing number of Utah residents working for the state government, but outside the capital of Salt Lake City. This is part of an initiative to allow government employees to do their work remotely, allowing them to stay in smaller communities outside of the Wasatch Front, a metropolitan area of ​​Utah that spans along the Wasatch Range, containing major cities like Salt Lake City, West Valley Town, and Provo.

Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox released his One Utah Roadmap in January, a guide to the administration’s first 500 days in office. In the roadmap, which is divided into various categories, Cox named a goal of “streamlining and modernizing state government,” which the guide says can be achieved through several means, including restructuring and upgrading. reconsideration of how to run government in a remote working world.

“We’re finding that we have more stability in some of our rural areas, less turnover,” said Casey Cameron, executive director of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “They’re not leaving for other jobs in the community. These are sometimes some of the best jobs in those communities and they really provide that economic stability so that these families can participate in those jobs.” Cameron’s agency launched an initiative around 2015 to create more jobs in rural Utah, and many are in fact remote jobs where employees work from their homes.

“We started looking for opportunities across the state to move more of our workforce to rural areas where unemployment rates were higher and where we had infrastructure or even just enough. a remote work opportunity where they could work from home, ”Cameron said. According to the agency, 70% of staff work on Front Wasatch and 30% in rural areas of the state. From 2015 to 2017, the agency hired 110 people with ties to a rural area, accounting for nearly 31% of all ministry hires during that period.

From 2017 to early 2019, the agency hired 109 people with ties to a rural area, which represented nearly 39% of all hires in the department during that time. The Department of Workforce Services launched the initiative in the eligibility services division, Cameron said. When the agency hires an eligible worker, for example, it would target specific rural areas with higher unemployment rates.

“We would post these jobs for these rural areas,” she added. This has become even more important during the pandemic, as rural areas recover more slowly, Cameron said. “We have specifically posted these jobs on the Wasatch front so that we can help some of these rural communities support hiring in rural Utah throughout the pandemic,” she said. For Borrego, who lives in Cedar City with her husband, five children and grandson, working remotely allows him to spend more time with his family.

“The best thing about being able to keep working in a small town is that I don’t have to fight the bad air. I don’t have to worry about a long commute,” a- she declared. Like Borrego, Gerald Gappmayer, deputy director of the eligibility services division for the Department of Workforce Services, is raising kids in a small town. The low traffic and the proximity to the mountains are also attractive. Gappmayer, who lives in the Four Corners area, said creating and maintaining jobs in rural areas allows children to grow up and have families in the places they want to live.

“I think one of the things we’ve learned over the last year is that just about any job can be held anywhere in the state,” said the 53-year-old player. “There are a lot of very talented and very capable people in rural Utah who don’t have all the opportunities on the Wasatch front.” Ocean Muterspaugh, who lives in Monticello, is a Specialist in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The 44-year-old said working from home has significantly reduced her working time.

She had lunch at the office, so she spent about 10 hours at work. Now she can work eight hours a day, giving her more time with her family. “I have the impression that rural communities have more of a voice,” she said. “Not to say that they hadn’t done it before. But before Covid, I would never have been eligible for this position that I have because it was only open to more urban areas. there is talent and people lost in positions because they don’t. live in urban areas. ”


This article was supported in part by the Solutions Journalism Network.


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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion