Even prior to the pandemic that has spawned the work from home revolution, the Rural Online Initiative (ROI) was starting to turn earth for developing a rural workforce in San Juan County. Emery Telcom was well on its way to looping in the south part of the county with broadband internet via fiber optic lines.
But infrastructure is just part of the equation. A recent Town Hall meeting for San Juan County and other players in the Rural Online Initiative was hosted by Emery County’s Jordan Leanoard and Mark Sarles, program coordinator for ROI in Garfield county.
The zoom call was attended by several others including Natalie Randall, San Juan County director of Economic Development and Visitor Services, Meghan McFall University of Southern Utah’s Small Business Development Center director in Blanding and even a couple of graduates of the program.
Randall states “The ROI program has been awesome for our county!” She noted that everyone who was on the zoom call lived in not just rural counties but practically on the frontier. Two communities in particular for San Juan County, Blanding and Monticello are primed for remote work due to infrastructure and connectivity.
“Partnership with the Utah Educational and Telehealth Network has seen UTEN expansion of fiber infrastructure down to Bluff, Montezuma Creek, and eventually to Navajo Mountain and their contractor Emery Telcom who are committed to expanding fiber lines in homes throughout the county.” She continued.
Randall also touted the remote work space being developed in Monticello at the county library. “Co-working space in the Monticello library is open to construction bid now.”
When finished that library will have a large conference room, sound proof booths, with tech and office support for individuals that are here to work remotely.
McFall has pushed out classes funded by the ROI and given by industry leaders in the tech world. Since September, a variety of classes for business owners have been offered including some conducted by Microsoft personnel themselves. These courses and workshops are designed to refresh skills or reveal secrets to using some of their products. In addition local social media experts have gone through what it takes to develop web content and become a fixture on the world broadband is opening up.
Pratt Redd, Blanding City’s economic development specialist took the course and then began teaching in the workshops. Over a year ago he went through a series of online training sessions and remarked that he has used the tools it gave him to expand his reach in a side career consulting on social media. Recently he has been working online remotely for a Virginia based company.
Dr Sam Arungwa is a Criminal Justice and Sociology instructor at USU Blanding. He feels the ROI is a much needed source of funding that will reduce poverty. He cites poverty figures statewide of 10% and feels post secondary education of any kind is a ticket to higher and more stable earnings for those who receive it. “I see this as a great foundation for what we are trying to do.” Said Dr Arungwa.
There were a number of others on the Zoom call, Emily Laws, a stay at home mom said she took the ROI program and it paid off with a 15 to 20 hour a week part time job that she doesn’t have to leave the home for. “What I learned from the program was super beneficial to what I do now.” Emily remarked to the Zoom audience.
Jed Lyman, a Blanding resident said he is suffering from the impact of Covid-19, his air bnb has been all but empty since the virus arrived on the scene. As he watched Covid numbers climb his income disappeared. He is looking at the ROI and programs it is funding as a possible path forward to making a living.
Dolores Heaton is an instructor with USU Blanding. She outlined just a few of the things the course will provide. “The one month class touches on so many aspects of successfully working and managing remote employees. The leadership portion explains building a healthy remote culture with your employees, managing them and their performance.” According to Heaton. The conflicts that are common in such relationships are covered so those who take the course won’t feel blindsided when the problem crops up in real life.
Right now the course is just $20 for Utah residents. Jordan Leonard wants to do you one better. Just like the airlines and rental car companies there’s a secret code that will get you a discount. Go to this link https://extension.usu.edu/remoteworkcertificate/ and type in ROIGIFT. That code will drop the price of your course to $5.
The next class starts in January and you must sign up before December 25th. It will take you 25 to 30 hours to complete the class.