The second annual Wasatch Back Economic Summit held on Thursday, May 30 at the Dejoria Center in Kamas attracted a sell out crowd with well over 350 attendees gathered to hear about growth, development, challenges and opportunities in Summit and Wasatch counties.
Sponsored by the Park City and Heber Valley chambers of commerce, the summit brought in a variety of speakers and panelist presenting on topics such as Utah’s future Olympic bid, tourism marketing, real estate market analysis, business development, the Mayflower/Deer Valley Expansion, and a panel comprising elected officials from both counties.
In 2002, the Winter Olympic games redefined the Wasatch Back as several events were held in both Park City and Midway. As Utah looks to bid for another future Olympics, Fraser Bullock, heading the team working on the Utah bid, spoke on the overwhelming desire of the Utah community to bring the games back. In a recent poll 89 percent of Utahns are in favor of bringing the Olympics back. Bullock said that type of support is unheard of in many other potential host destinations. Utah is currently the United States Olympic Community’s choice to host a future games. According to Bullock, the USOC is hoping the games to come back to Utah in either 2030 or 2034.
One of the most popular breakouts of the summit was the Mayflower/Deer Valley discussion. Brook Hontz, of Extell Development, Paul Morris, executive director of the Military Installation Development Authority, and Laurie Backus, region manager of Utah State Parks, made up the panel for the Mayflower breakout. Over the course of the next several years the area just south and west of the Mayflower exit near the Jordanelle will be transformed into a new resort community with commercial space, public gathering areas, recreation facilities, expanded ski areas, and three hotels making the area a world-class destination for year-round recreation.
In 2007, this area of Mayflower and parts of the Jordanelle area received designation for further recreational and commercial development. Since then the MIDA group and Extell have come together to present a plan that will transform the area. According to Hontz, Extell owns about 5,100 acres but plans to keep a vast majority of that land open for trails, and about 1,200 acres of additional skiing. One of the largeste portions of the of the project will be a conference style hotel that will feature 400 rooms with a total footprint of 600,000 square feet. Construction on the project has already begun with clearing of trees for the future ski beach. A key feature for Extell is to create a walkable community. All areas of the village concept will be within a radius of a quarter mile.
Click here for to see rendering and documents related to the Mayflower project.
One of the key moments of the summit occurred in the morning with a panel of elected officials from Summit and Wasatch counties. Mayors Matt McCormick of Kamas, Kelleen Potter of Heber, Celest Johnson of Midway, and Andy Beerman of Park City were joined by county council members Roger Armstrong of Summit and Wasatch. Some of the topics they spoke on was the current and future growth of each area. A shared concern over the growth for the group was preserving open space that would help keep the rural feel and affordable housing.
Recently Park City began work to build approximately 500 to 800 deed restricted affordable units. Additionally, they have been exploring policies with developments that would potentially grant additional density if certain conditions of affordable housing, public transit and other community issues are addressed in the plan.
During the question and answer period public transportation was brought up as a challenge that the municipal leaders need to work on. Mayor Johnson of Midway responded that all the municipalities are eager to sit down together to meet on solutions to many transportation needs especially as it relates to getting people from Park City to Provo and vis versa. Johnson and Mayor Potter did comment that this issue would take all parties working together and said the relationship between the cities and counties has never been stronger, creating the right conditions for change and solutions.
As the Summit came to a close during the luncheon Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants, spoke to the group about her experience of starting, running, and growing her clothing business in a rural community in Montana. Her message focused on how she on how she found success through making valuable connections in her community first through volunteer work and then through her business. Creating those connections has helped her to grow her company and a musical festival that brings in over 16,000 people to here small town of 900.
It was this message of connectedness and togetherness that permeated the summit. As the two counties continue to experience tremendous growth the borders will continue to blur requiring creative problem solving and forward-thinking solutions that foster connectedness. The growth of the conference over the past two years is proof this message is important to many people and working together will be the best way to continue the pattern of strong economic growth.