I posted much of this column on my personal website last week as a call to action to help Hanksville, a very small community in Southern Utah.
Hanksville, a community of approximately 200 people with nearly 90 percent of the residents below the poverty line, is about 60 miles north of the Bull Frog Marina on the shores of Lake Powell. Founded more than 100 years ago by Ebenezer Hanks and his pioneer family, the town has struggled economically for generations.
I received a letter from Jessica Alvey, who, with her husband Duke, runs Stan's Burger Shak, the Chevron station and Whispering Sands Motel.
"We love our community," Jessica wrote. "Our roots are strong here. We are the largest employer in Hanksville. We currently employ either the head of household or both husband and wife of eleven families, with more and more seeking employment with us. This is a great responsibility and burden that we take very seriously. One of our main goals in business is to create and establish sustainable jobs for our local families. This is a very difficult task with seasonal tourism. Even so, each year we have tried to expand so these jobs can be long lasting and be more gainful. I feel we are now truly at a crossroads. We have studied our options and believe the time is right to expand our operations to include a full service RV park and 24 more additional motel rooms with a pool and laundromat."
She continues, "I am incredibly fearful moving forward. Just prior to Sept. 11, 2001, we had expanded with another restaurant. The attack on America hit us incredibly hard that day, as it did many businesses in the United States, and for four years tourism in our area was catastrophic. As a result, we lost everything and went bankrupt. As you can imagine, many of our employees and their families suffered with us. We are back in business again; wiser, smarter and better at what we do.
"To expand, we need money. At this moment, we do not have personal funds to achieve our goals. I believe we need to secure a bank loan to proceed. How can we move forward having had a bankruptcy and with no net worth? Alan, what should we do? What advice can you give us?"
I called Jessica and told her I will help her and the good citizens of Hanksville with steady jobs and better wages.
So, dear readers don't disappoint Jessica and the citizens of Hanksville. Let's meet and talk. Let's understand the issues, the market, the customers, the needs and develop a plan of action to fix this problem, once and for all. Who knows, perhaps we can find a way to help with the financing of the right projects. Maybe someone who reads this article will build a small assembly or manufacturing plant in the community. Spread the word. Let's rally the troops.Tell your friends. Call the media. Contact local elected officials. Let's solve this problem now!
Multiple individuals have stepped forward so far with offers to help. Here's an idea that came from Lex Watterson:
"It is an interesting time we live in, because it used to be people had to go to where a job is, now a job can go where the people are," Lex said.
Lex went on to suggest the possibility of housing a call center in a small community, or finding or creating individual telephone-based jobs.
Another suggestion, from Salt Lake City business owner Cheryl Conner, is to investigate the Utah Microfund Loan, which can provide critical loans for companies who may lack a business history or have economy-induced credit issues that prevent them from being a fit for traditional funding.
Another possible resource is the EDCU program headed by David E. Bradford that has the ability to allocate some funding for approximately seven to nine deserving economic development projects each year.
I am sure there are similar stories of challenge in many of our small communities. The ideas we mobilize for Hanksville can help those communities, too. Please keep your ideas and messages coming.
Contact me at www.AlanEHall.com with your suggestions and ideas to help Hanksville.