The Changing Spires of Castle Country

  • Geri Gamber
  • 13 December 2019

Disruption is constantly restructuring market paradigms and economies on both a local and global scale.  The forces behind this ever-occurring activity range from political processes, technological change, and natural disasters. As real time participants in this wild adventure, we are given a simple choice: innovate or die. In Utah, the gravity of this binary decision tree rests heavy on the residents of Carbon and Emery Counties also known as Castle Country.

Today, many Utah residents and visitors drive through this part of the state on their way to see the well marketed Mighty 5, but upon further investigation, one finds out that this is a region of Utah ripe with natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit. It is where most people in Utah receive their power, and it has produced several international companies like Savage Companies. As travelers pass by, they are unaware of the major disruption that has been taking place in Castle Country over the past decade.

The decision by PacifiCorp to diversify power generation from coal to other types of feed stock hit this region doubly because not only has the region historically produced large amounts of coal, it also houses several major power plants. PacifiCorp’s actions were heavily influenced by the regulatory oversight imposed by policymakers on a national level with no real considerations made for the effects it would have in places like Carbon and Emery Counties.

Like many areas throughout the country that have absorbed the effects from organizations and things like trade agreements and/or wars, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and so many more, Carbon and Emery Counties were hit hard. This is a place filled with people whose forebears came from all over the world to make a life and eventually built an energy corridor that provides power to the western region of the US and coal to many international destinations.

The world outside of Castle Country has bombarded its fortifications with countless slings and arrows, but the leaders of the region are now going on the offensive. They are also finding strong allies in organizations like the US Economic Development Administration, Utah State University, Coal Country Strike Team, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, USDA Rural Development, the Utah Association of Counties, the World Trade Center of Utah, the Utah Inland Port Authority, the University of Utah, Silicon Slopes, Congressman Curtis, Senator Hinkins, Representative Watkins, Representative Albrecht, and so many more.

These partnerships are the new powerlines of Castle Country. The major difference is energy on these lines goes both ways, with expertise and support flowing inward, while goods and services go out. The best example of this new paradigm is the work that so many have done on the Intermountain Electronics (IE) expansion.

Earlier this year, IE, a company founded in Carbon County, announced that it selected Carbon County over Denver for its corporate expansion.

Total Carbon County Employment 246355407
Net New Positions 1388852
Cumulative New Positions128237289

John Houston founded IE in 1985, and like most companies in the region he serviced the existing mining operations. IE is now building advanced electrical systems for many firms, including well known tech companies. IE, like any other successful company, has diversified to grow revenue, which also helps when major structural changes occur in the economy.

The case study of the IE expansion is just one example of the new innovations occurring in Castle Country. Some others are; the launching of Silicon Slopes East, USU expansion of its aviation programs, the creation of multiple shared workspaces, and launching of the San Rafael Energy Research Center. The entrepreneurial spirit of Castle Country is alive and well, and the global economy will be benefiting from this power for generations to come.