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SALT LAKE CITY — The Silicon Slopes brand has drawn plenty of attention to the Utah tech scene over the last several years. But that attention has been focused mainly on the Wasatch Front, and particularly on Utah and Salt Lake counties.
Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts wants to more equally democratize that success.
That’s why the nonprofit organization launched Silicon Slopes East in Carbon and Emery counties late last week — the most recent of its remote chapters that dot the state in places like St. George and Logan.
“Silicon Slopes, for us, is all of Utah — not just Provo to Salt Lake. That was critical for us, ensuring that we can extend the organization and the reach throughout the entire state,” Betts said.
Intermountain Electronics and Emery Telcom are two major companies based in the area that have led the effort to establish the new chapter in southeastern Utah, Silicon Slopes announced.
While mineral extraction has given Carbon and Emery counties a reputation as a Utah energy hub, businesses in the area are looking to change with the times by introducing more tech to the process.
“For many years, Carbon County has been lush with mineral lease money. Now as that money isn’t as constant as it once was, I am grateful that the businesses are now being innovative and diversifying products and services,” Carbon County Commissioner Tony Martines said in an emailed news release.
Emery County Commissioner Kent Wilson claims “Coal Country” is building the hardware that many of the software companies in Utah (and beyond) are using.
“Our company is a great example of the shift to tech-related services because we have been building electrical systems for coal mines and now we are constructing equipment for major data centers,” Bobby Houston, director of mission-critical operations with Intermountain Electronics, said in the news release.
Castle Dale Mayor Danny Van Wagoner hopes Silicon Slopes East can help the area adapt to support the remote workers in the area that “like to come to Emery County to climb, boulder and recreate."
The region recently witnessed the addition of three new co-working spaces, but Betts is hoping Silicon Slopes can help create more than just jobs for remote workers. While he believes that’s a great short-term strategy, remote workers will be the first to go when a recession hits, he said.
“Our goal there is to build companies that are homegrown companies built by homegrown entrepreneurs that Silicon Slopes can support and help foster,” Betts said, noting that the organization will provide “capital, connections, community, mentorship and resources” to those areas to help build an independent economy.
Betts also hopes Silicon Slopes’ presence will help attract companies to the area, as well as sufficient talent to sustain the types of jobs that businesses coming to the region would need.
“You’ve got to tell the story of what’s happening there. You need a community down there. It’ll resonate more with these companies if they can see there’s a community and a whole state that’s backing that region — and, in particular, the whole tech community in Utah,” he said.
But Betts said the specific focus of the new chapter would be best answered by the chapter leaders themselves.
“What they focus on as entrepreneurs and as a community is entirely up to them. I think they need that autonomy and that freedom to be able to build what makes sense to them and what resonates in that community,” he said.
“It’s a mix between giving them the model, giving them the resources, and then giving them the autonomy to make it their own."
At least that’s what Betts has seen happen in St. George. Isolated from the Wasatch Front, the tech community in Utah’s largest southern city has “taken their chapter and made it their own,” he said, after recently returning from a trip to the area.
What they focus on as entrepreneurs and as a community is entirely up to them. I think they need that autonomy and that freedom to be able to build what makes sense to them and what resonates in that community.
–Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts
But the highest hurdle to jump, for both remote chapters and Silicon Slopes as an organization, is consistent messaging, he said.
“The biggest challenge is figuring out how to tell the story of what’s happening in your community. … How do you tell the story in a way that resonates and in a way that you know builds connections?” Betts said.
The Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments had not responded to request for comment Tuesday. This story will be updated if more information becomes available.
Silicon Slopes East will have a formal launch event on March 4 at 10 a.m. at Utah State University Eastern, 410 E. 400 North in Price.