Kanab councilman Roger Holland says seven families in his Mormon Church ward lost their jobs with the closure of the Kaibab mill. "Some have gone on unemployment, then welfare," Holland says. "None of these families have come back to the point economically that they were before."
Tourism has continued to grow, but workers not only earn low wages, they frequently get laid off during the cold winter months. Roger Carter, manager of the Red Hills Best Western in Kanab, says he pares his summer staff of 35 to a baker's dozen during November, December and January.
"We love our tourists, especially now that they're all we have," says Carter, who moved his family to Kanab seven years ago from Flagstaff, Ariz. "But it's a boom-and-bust economy, too."
To this hard-hit community, the Andalex coal mine project looked like a savior. No wonder everyone was hopping mad when the President took that hope away.
Practical to the CORE
Later that evening, I meet with three men who have moved past anger to focus on Kane County's future. They lead a community organization called CORE - Coalition of Resources and Economies.
On my left is hotel manager, Roger Carter, who serves as CORE's president; on my right, Richard Negus, a 67-year-old London-born transplant who has been an animal-rights activist, journalist, and cat-show announcer at New York's Madison Square Garden. Dead ahead of me is the imposing figure of Jim Matson, the former manager of Kaibab Industries' logging mill in Fredonia, Ariz., 9 miles south of Kanab.
The mill closed two years ago, a victim of changing economic conditions and, according to Matson, appeals of federal timber sales on the Kaibab National Forest north of the Grand Canyon brought by environmentalists.
"Do you have any environmentalists in your group?" I ask.
"All 12 of us," quips Matson.
A forester by training, Matson, 52, has been reborn as a super-consultant on natural-resource conflicts and economic development. Kane County recently hired his firm to spend $200,000 in monument planning monies.
"We're a poor county, behind the times in land-use planning and economic development," he says. "The coal mine and the $1.5 million a year it would have provided - now that's gone and we have to quickly shift our priorities."
Matson says the monument catalyzed a countywide economic plan that he had been working on for months. The plan focuses on bringing small and medium-sized firms to the county - companies like Stamp "Em Up, a business started in Las Vegas by two Kanab women who recently moved the operation back to their hometown. The company manufactures rubber impressions for a variety of crafts, and at 200 employees, it's Kane County's biggest employer.
But Matson knows Kanab is a rookie in the recruitment game. Last year, he says, the owners of a tent and outdoor-gear manufacturing company scouted Kanab as a possible location for their business. They left quickly when town officials couldn't promise that the company's sewer, water, power and telecommunications needs would be met.
"We didn't even speak the same language," Matson recalls.
The new plan, which calls for zoning and upgrades in Kanab's infrastructure, should give the county the credibility it needs to start recruiting businesses from places like Southern California. It might be a tough sell.
Kanab's work force lacks the skills and expertise to attract the high-tech industries that are flocking to Utah's Wasatch Front, says economist Gil Miller. The nearest four-year college is several hours away, in Cedar City. And Kanab sits almost a hundred miles from an interstate and lacks commercial air service.
Kanab can't even attract the BLM. The agency recently decided to locate its temporary monument planning office in Cedar City, which is several hours away from the new monument and outside both Kane and Garfield counties. BLM monument supervisor Jerry Meredith says the agency didn't want to locate in any community near the monument for fear it would give the town an edge in the competition for permanent monument facilities. But there were logistical concerns as well, he admits.