A recent encounter in Utah

  Dear HCN,


While visiting our newest national monument last weekend, we stopped at a small store in Boulder, Utah, to buy gas, dog food and a few groceries. When we asked if the store had a microwave and sold frozen burritos for a quick lunch, the pleasant saleswoman replied, "Sorry, we're not really into fast food." As we paid, we expressed our appreciation of the new Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument and she looked doubtful. We said, "Well, we understand your county really wanted that coal mine, but hopefully the park will be good for your business," and she expressed even greater doubts about that. Yet, there we were, ready to spend more money if they had expanded their selection and service.


This lack of entrepreneurial spirit and the notion of coal mining as a better route to prosperity seem at odds with Utah's traditional values. Brigham Young was adamant that his people resist the lure of mining boom towns and exhorted them to establish stable communities based on business enterprise and agriculture. Certainly Salt Lake City is a prime example of 150 years of entrepreneurial creativity.


It seems odd that now a small grocery is stymied at how to capitalize on increased tourism. We hear the repeated complaint in southern Utah that tourism provides only minimum wage jobs. But that's only if you don't own your own business. Surely there is the know-how down there to start a hundred new outdoors-oriented businesses.


The problem is not the lack of opportunity, but rather how one prefers to make money - an ideological issue. Somehow coal mining is preferable to tourism. Coal mining? Seems like coal mining has always been associated with drudgery, disease and worker exploitation. What images come to mind with the phrases "coal miner's daughter" or "Appalachian coal miner'? In fact, a number of 19th-century Mormon converts escaped the English and Welsh coal mines for a better life in Utah.


We live in a Colorado county with an economy based largely on recreation and retirement living, where 80 percent of the land is in the public domain with two federal wilderness areas. Our custom bootmaker, our nationally known greenhouse-cactus grower and our river raft guides would all agree that their businesses provide far more satisfaction and personal freedom than when they kowtowed to their production-pressured foremen before the molybdenum mine shut down.


What's happened to the Beehive State when it prefers punching a multinational's time clock to personal enterprise?





Katherine and Michael McCoy


Buena Vista, Colorado
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