This article was published in the Fall 2020 issue
by Pitt Grewe, Director, Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development
We have all seen the statistics about how Utah is the fastest-growing state in the nation. The huge amount of businesses choosing to establish offices in the state stretches across many different sectors. From technology to healthcare, financial services to manufacturing, Utah has largely done a great job diversifying its economy to attract top talent. It is a combination of factors that make the decision an easy one. Still, there is one unifying reason that convinces CEOs, recent graduates, young families and seasoned professionals looking to complete their career and retire: the unmatched beauty and access to outdoor recreation Utah offers.
Utah hosts a wide array of recreation resources that attract outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. There are over 34 million acres of public lands within the state, 13 national parks, monuments, and historical sites, 44 state parks, 15 ski resorts, and thousands of miles of public multi-use trails for hiking, biking, motorized travel and equestrian use. A unique statistic is that most Utah residents live within 20 minutes of one of these amazing natural assets.
A study conducted by the Kem C. Gardner Institute in 2018 found that 50 of the fastest-growing companies in Utah cited that access to outdoor recreation is one of the top three reasons they chose to locate here. Not only does close access provide great views from an office window, but it also improves the quality of life for residents, which in turn leads to increased job satisfaction, employee retention and overall health and wellness of Utah residents. When I say it isn’t the office that brings people to work for your company, it’s what’s outside; it means it is the opportunities available before work, or after with their families, or the breathtaking places to explore on the weekends within a short drive of their home. A nice break room, ping pong table, sleep pods, or bottomless soda fountain are all nice perks that make the workday go a little smoother, but what attracts people to Utah -- and convinces them to stay here -- is the outdoor recreation opportunities and ease of access.
Our role at the Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation is to ensure every Utah resident has that access and can responsibly take advantage of these opportunities. Our office wants to improve the quality of life of every Utahn through outdoor recreation. We do this by administering a grant program to communities and nonprofits that develop recreation infrastructure across the state. This includes trail systems, campgrounds, boat docks, bike parks, cross country ski courses, or anything else a community can dream up to help its residents get outside. It is a matching grant that requires partnerships and gets many different entities involved to ensure success. Municipalities, businesses, land management agencies, nonprofits and residents rally around efforts to build and maintain outdoor recreation infrastructure. Our office and grant are here to help facilitate that.
Another initiative of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation is the Every Kid Outdoors initiative. Endless statistics are showing the value of getting kids off screens and into the outdoors. Studies show that time outdoors helps kids (and adults) improve their physical health, emotional well-being, stress reduction, cognitive processing, student engagement, creativity and academic success. Supporting educational programs and facilities in their communities is something private businesses can also do to ensure greater employee satisfaction -- and healthier, happier communities. These programs help kids engage in outdoor learning, form healthy lifestyles, protect public lands and become passionate about outdoor recreation.
I encourage everyone to think about what draws you to or keeps you in Utah. If outdoor recreation is in your top three reasons, you should start thinking about how you can help improve and increase access to it in your neck of the woods. For more information regarding the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Please visit https://business.utah.gov/outdoor/
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