St. George’s future is bright despite growing pains and COVID-related challenges, St. George, Utah, January 13, 2022 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News
ST. GEORGE- Greater St. George’s economy booming despite growing pains and COVID-related challenges, says President and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce Don Willie.
Willie addressed business leaders at the state of affairs luncheon Wednesday at the Dixie St. George Convention Center, during which he thanked the many people involved in the chamber’s success, including the board of directors. administration and numerous committees.
“We couldn’t do this without you as a community and all hands involved,” Willie said. “I am excited as I share a reflection from last year. As we look to the future, I want this group to know that this only happened because of you. You have answered a call to help be a positive influence in this community, to be a leader, to give back.
In 2016, Washington County’s population was 159,352. In 2021, the population grew to 190,617, a growth rate of 19%. During the same period, the rest of Utah’s population grew by 9% and the nation grew by 3%.
” We are growing ; we are growing fast. We are growing impressively and welcoming new people from diverse backgrounds, different ideologies, who bring so much to our community and bring a different mindset that is complementary and empowering to the existing community,” Willie said. “But let’s also be smart about how we grow as a community.”
Business leaders are excited about what the future holds but, Willie warned, growing too fast and irresponsibly could derail things.
“So that is our caution as business leaders and heads of government. We have to be careful with this. We want this growth; it’s good, and it’s positive for us as a community,” he said. “But we also have to proceed with caution to recognize that there are constraints that we face and concerns that we face.”
The chamber recently conducted a survey of its members who mainly run small businesses. Many are micro-enterprises, with one to four employees. Willie said the response came from various businesses inside and outside the chamber.
The survey revealed that local business leaders have the following concerns:
- Supply Chain.
- Salary increase.
- Labor shortage.
- Declining labor quality.
- Variants COVID.
- The water.
- Workforce housing.
- Government regulations.
“You can see where we feel the pressure as a business community,” Willie said.
The survey also asked what changes are here to stay in the community with the pandemic. Willie noted that COVID isn’t going anywhere.
“COVID variant after variant will appear, right? So those are some of the things companies are saying; it’s here to stay, and we’re going to embrace it. We’re going to do what we can with hybrid work schedules or working from home,” Willie said.
Some comments from the survey showed that people want life to go back to how it was before the pandemic. But Willie pointed out that the world has changed and life never goes back to normal, just like everything changed after 9/11.
“If you haven’t been to an airport before 9/11 and after 9/11, you don’t know. But if so, it is fundamentally different. And we won’t be going back,” Willie said. “So things have changed. Our community has changed the way we do business, but that doesn’t mean it should stop us in any way.
Overall, Washington County has emerged very strong from COVID in 2020 and especially throughout 2021. The survey asked about economic strength and the level of business confidence. Eighty-nine percent of respondents are convinced that their business will grow.
“The future for our businesses is incredibly bright,” Willie said.
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