PANGUITCH/ KANAB, Utah (ABC4 News) – Allen Henry is a farmer and rancher in Panguitch. He says agriculture is a big economic drive for Garfield County.
“We struggle with economic development here, we have beautiful county, Bryce Canyon National Park and often times they’re low paying jobs,” said Henry.
He says he believes in preserving national and state parks, but wants more opportunities for farmers and ranchers here.
“But we don’t believe that the government should tie up millions and millions of our acres, you know where we can’t develop, where we can’t have jobs for our people, we can’t have private land for our people that raises taxes,” said Henry.
Henry says there’s been a drought.
“We have had four or five years now, where in the livestock industry, especially where we have hardly broke even, and so it is tough and now with this coronavirus,” he added.
He’s working with the Utah Association Conservation Districts to help find solutions, but he wants more support from local leaders.
“Try to find ways so that the water we have, we can use more wisely,” added Henry.
Over in Kanab, a western atmosphere welcomes its tourists. Cyrus Mejia is a co-owner of Raven’s Art Gallery, he also helped start Best Friend’s Animal Society, a popular animal sanctuary.
“Best Friends gets about 35,000 visitors here a year and that kind of business coming into the community here is really important,” said Mejia.
He believes more restaurants and pet-friendly businesses could help drive the economy in Kane County.
“Provide jobs, but also add to the culture of the community, I think it’s important as we grow, to not forget the culture of this town,” said Mejia.
Mejia says he would like to see more housing opportunities since the animal sanctuary employs about 400 people.
“Reasonable cost, low cost, affordable housing, rentals, that kind of thing are a very short supply here,” said Mejia.
Something else he believes could help local businesses, is road development into Kanab, on Highway 89.
“The stoplight we have right out here, should become a four way stop sign,” he added.
Mejia says with a western culture, comes a slower pace.
“Slow everything down, more people would have more time to look around and say, ‘Oh look! There’s an art gallery,” said Mejia.
Residents in Garfield and Kane Counties say they have high hopes for their communities to grow, given their convenient locations and beautiful views.