GROUSE CREEK -- Boosting rural economies will require a combination of infrastructure improvement, investment in education and market freedom, Gov. Gary Herbert said during the first day of a tour of the state's rural areas.
Government has a vital role to play for the short-term survival and long-term viability of rural communities, Herbert said. But even more important is what state regulatory agencies and elected officials don't do to impede development.
"In some ways, government needs to get out of the way and let the free market do its work," Herbert said.
The rural tour began Tuesday morning in the state's northwest corner of Box Elder County and included a meeting with a guest ranch owner and 17 students attending the one-room elementary school in Grouse Creek.
He also conducted a news conference through a video uplink from the school. He said the technology used in the video conference underscored the ability for rural students to get a quality education, even with limited communication infrastructure.
Technology can increase the diversity of job opportunities in rural areas, Herbert said. But that requires a broader and ongoing look at the possibilities for job creation, especially in the Internet age.
"It's a continuous effort, and it doesn't have a beginning or an end," Herbert said. "We need to evolve to face the changing marketplace, which is now global."
While the tour is focused on job creation, Herbert said he isn't pitching a specific plan and he doesn't want to "presuppose what I'm going to learn." Instead, he's asking students, business leaders and elected officials what they think would be smart ways to improve economies.
High school students in San Juan County will join Herbert on Wednesday for a discussion that will be broadcast to students statewide. The county is in the southeastern corner of the state and natural resources -- including oil, gas and uranium -- are a big part of the economy.
Other stops on the tour that ends Friday include areas of southern and central Utah where agriculture and tourism are major economic drivers.