CACHE COUNTY – Cache County’s new economic development director is continuing to earn his pay.
Shawn Milne announced recently that his efforts helped to secure a $200,000 grant from the state’s Rural County Grant program. During a Nov. 23 meeting members of the Cache County Council, Milne explained that those funds will help to support county economic development operations, a workforce development effort and a program to support local entrepreneurs.
“We appreciate the partnership of our state Legislature and the governor’s office in providing these funds,” said County Executive David Zook, while applauding Milne’s efforts to secure the initial allotment of funds from the state program.
“We will now leverage those funds with our own contributions and team up with local partners to amplify our efforts.”
Milne explained that the Rural County Grant program was created by the 2020 Legislature as part of a broad effort by state leaders to increase economic activity and opportunity within rural communities.
“Utah has seen a lot of success in business development and attraction in the past decade,” Milne added. “However, the rate of new business creation and expansion outside of the Wasatch Front has not matched that of the urban core.”
Utah counties are categorized as being either rural or urban by their populations. With fewer than 175,000 residents, Cache County is considered rural by state officials. Under the terms of the Rural County Grant program, Cache County was eligible to receive up to $200,000 in the first phase of that program.
The state program requires a 40 percent matching contribution by counties that receive $200,000 grants. At the suggestion of county council member Paul Borup, that $80,000 match will be paid with funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was by proposed by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration and passed by strictly party-line votes in Congress during March of 2021.
Nationwide, ARPA provided $350 billion to state and local governments, with 57 percent of that amount going to state treasuries and 35 going to county and municipal coffers.
Having successfully navigated the provisions of the first phase of Rural County Grant program, Milne told council members he is now moving onto its next phase, where a limited number of grants up to $600,000 will be available.
Milne joined the Cache County staff in November of 2020. He is a 2001 graduate of Westminster College. He settled in Tooele shortly after that to start a small business that installed residential and commercial electronics.
After gaining experience with economic development efforts while serving on the Tooele City Council and the Tooele City Redevelopment Agency, Milne joined the Tooele County commission in 2013. As a commissioner, his assignments included overseeing that county’s economic development and tourism activities.
In his Cache County role, Milne is assisted by an 11-member panel appointed in June of 2021 to serve as the county’s economic development advisory board.
Appointment of that board was the first step toward Cache County’s participation in Utah’s new Rural County Grant Program.
“We are experiencing some of the most unique economic circumstances of our lifetime,” Zook emphasized. “The best way to face those challenges is to see them as opportunities to collaborate with our partners to create innovative solutions.”
The combined funds from both the county and state will be used to implement a campaign to help businesses struggling to find workers, according to Milne. That program will be developed in partnership with the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Workforce Services, local educational institutions and the Cache Valley Economic Development Alliance.
Milne added that the combined grant funds would also used to expand to support for entrepreneurs served by the Bridgerland Tech Entrepreneurship Center.