ST. GEORGE -- In Utah, the housing downturn has hit hardest in St. George, where a sustained building boom has dried up and unemployment has soared.
Some local business owners, entrepreneurs and people just looking for work there are trying a new strategy to make it through the tough times.
St. George has the highest jobless rate of any major Utah city. Its 7.1 percent is two full points above the state average. And the ripple effect has hit other segments of the economy hard.
In response, a small but growing number of people in Dixie are trying a new approach to boost their fortunes: no-cost networking.
Rebecca Monson is the driving force behind "Networking's the Secret," a weekly no-dues and no-membership-fee meeting over lunch, where you don't even have to buy the lunch.
Networker Chris Hickey said, "You know, we're in tough economic times right now. People need to get the word out about what they do more cost effectively than ever."
The group's been at it just for a month. It started with a dozen people and is now up to nearly 50.
Monson said, "I just took a poll today of how many people in this room have already pushed business to each other, and probably half the room raised their hands."
Everyone gets the chance to deliver his elevator speech, a thumbnail sketch about his business, service, or job skills.
Networker Mary Farris told us, "I just had two, three people today ask me to give them my card."
At this early date there's more enthusiasm than data to speak for the effort's success as an economic survival strategy, but Hickey says, "I found it phenomenal. I have found leads and contacts for my business that would not have otherwise."
"Networking's the Secret" meets at noon on Tuesdays at the JB's restaurant in St. George, and they welcome anyone who wants to join.
So, what are you doing to help make it through this recession? As a business owner, an employee or job seeker, or as a family? Share your strategies through the Tough Times Survival Bank. It can help us get through this together."