MORGAN -- In a county with a growing population and few businesses, Morgan County officials and business owners agree that the best way to approach economic development is one baby step at a time.
Baby steps include simplifying government codes relating to business licenses, beginning a "shop local" campaign, revamping a Chamber of Commerce website, making high-speed Internet available and establishing a hotel in the county.
"Baby steps is a hard thing, but probably the right thing for Morgan," County Councilman Lyle Nelson said.
A recently reorganized Morgan Area Chamber of Commerce met with Morgan city and county officials to discuss economic development initiatives in the county. Those involved agreed that Morgan has a reputation as unfriendly to business, and turning the tide on that perception may take awhile.
"Morgan is a diamond in the rough," County Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said. "The baby step is the beginning to start correcting issues that make it difficult to do business in Morgan County."
"We have a problem with city codes," Morgan City Mayor Jim Egbert said.
County officials said they are grappling with the same problem.
"We are looking at county codes, assessing where to make them more friendly for business," Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley said.
Councilman Ned Mecham said asking residents to shop locally could have an immediate impact.
"A third of our county doesn't spend a dime in Morgan County," Mecham said. "It is easier to spend in Weber and Davis county. The reason businesses fail in Morgan is they are not getting people in the door."
Officials agreed that identifying the types of businesses they want to attract to the county should be among the highest priorities. Part of that effort rests in identifying the types of businesses that are already successful.
For example, the county is home to many small, home-based businesses. In addition, many executives who conduct business along the Wasatch Front make Mountain Green their home.
A Chamber of Commerce website would encourage economic development, link to city and county websites, mention the county's proximity to recreation venues such as ski resorts, and stress the quality of life found in Morgan County. The Chamber of Commerce is already looking at website possibilities.
But as long as high-speed Internet infrastructure is unavailable to county businesses, economic development may be slow in coming, the group agreed.
Egbert said area public schools may have fiber optic infrastructure that city businesses can eventually tap into. City officials are also pursuing negotiations with UTOPIA.
The Utah Education Network may establish a fiber-optic line to the new elementary school in Mountain Green in the near future, Nelson said.
Nelson and Councilman Robert Kilmer agreed that a hotel in the county would attract other businesses. Although the city has approved a hotel site and entered into discussions with several interested in opening a hotel in the county, institutions so far aren't willing to lend for such a project.