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Salt Lake County Regional Development News

Mom & Pop Business Owners Day: Meet Two Inspiring Salt Lake County Entrepreneurs Who Grew During the Pandemic

March 29, 2022

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If you’ve shopped anywhere in Utah, chances are it was at a small business. They are the foundation of our state’s, and Salt Lake County’s, economy.

As of 2021, Utah had 313,590 small businesses, which accounted for 99.3% of all businesses in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While we celebrate their grit and entrepreneurship every year, this year, Salt Lake County celebrates the resiliency and passion of our small business owners on Mom and Pop Business Owners Day.

Meet Two Inspiring Entrepreneurs 

Taro Patch Catering and Green Janitorial Services are among the thousands of small businesses in the valley and represent the growing number of diverse businesses in Salt Lake County. In 2018, Hispanic-owned businesses totaled 19,347 and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander-owned businesses nearly 1,300.

Diverse-owned businesses were among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the nation slowly recovers, owners of Taro Patch Catering and Green Janitorial Services shared their experiences of running a small business over the last few years.

Pomaika’i Gaui is the owner of Taro Patch Catering.Pomaika’i Gaui opened Taro Patch Catering in 2020 to bring the Hawaiian food he grew up with to Salt Lake City.

“It’s been fun cooking, as well as introducing some of the local [Hawaiian] cuisine to clientele coming to the counter to lunch” Gaui said.

Gaui created Taro Patch Catering to fill in time from his full-time work teaching Hawaiian dance and culture during the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who has cooked for most of his life, Gaui said opening Taro Patch felt natural.

“I’ve been cooking since as long as I could,” Gaui said. “Cooking was always the time people came together, so I would learn how to make this dish from this uncle, or this dish from this auntie.”

One thing that stuck with Gaui is what his grandfather told him about cooking.

“I had a grandfather that cooked very little, but when he did cook, he always said, ‘I cook because I like food, and I want to make sure it’s good,” Gaui said. “That taught me two things: my grandfather was probably a good cook, and that if you want to eat something, make sure it’s good. That’s something I’ve always kept with me.”

The name Taro Patch Catering comes from the root vegetable taro, a crop that has been a staple in Hawaiian culture. Like the name, Gaui said he uses his cooking to share Hawaiian culture to others.

“If you look at every culture, food is in there somewhere, as a peace offering, celebration, anything that will connect us,” Gaui said. “Food ties in people to their cultures … and so cooking is an icebreaker for me, and an icebreaker for all of us.”

Claudia Hinojosa carries a similar passion for business, with her clients celebrating healthy homes and businesses where communities gather.

Claudia Hinojosa is the owner of Green Janitorial.Claudia Hinojosa opened Green Janitorial Services to keep people safer. Hinojosa’s cleaning business specializes in using only green and environmentally safe products.

“I saw a lot of business owners getting sick and having respiratory problems because of the chemicals they used to clean,” Hinojosa said. “The health of my clients, and especially my employees, are the most important thing to me, and that’s why we use only green products.”

Since its opening in 2018, Hinojosa’s business saw a 100% growth in its first year and grew 80% in the second year. Hinojosa currently has contracts with retail chains such as Barnes & Noble and works with over 40 residential houses.

“During the pandemic, lots of businesses stopped their subcontracts with other cleaning businesses, but they kept us,” Hinojosa said. “It’s pretty exciting for us.”

Last year, Hinojosa was given the Work Safety Hero Award from Alliance Community Services, recognizing her work in providing a healthy work environment for her employees and continued efforts in using green products.

For Hinojosa, the satisfaction, and her customers’ positive experiences is especially rewarding.

Gaui also said the satisfaction of his customers is why he loves to cook.

“For me the joy of people is why I love what I do,” Gaui said. “The satisfaction I get is when they eat and start to smile and go ‘mmm,’ and that’s what I look forward to.”

Growing Opportunities for Small Businesses

Despite success, Hinojosa said the pandemic has made it challenging finding workers. Hinojosa, who juggles managing and training 18 employees, said the work can be exhausting at times.

To help, Hinojosa is working on making training videos through the Women’s Business Center, a partner in a Salt Lake County program that works to support diverse small businesses – now called CO-OP.

“We are a growing company, and so we want to transfer our knowledge to employees that share our vision and mission,” Hinojosa said.

Gaui, who’s business was also impacted by the pandemic, was able to secure opportunities from PIK2AR, another CO-OP partner.

As part of an incubation program, Gaui acquired a kitchen space from PIK2AR, as well as resources on media, advertising, and business operations.

“Before [the program] we’d cooked mainly as a family thing, cooking for friends and others,” Gaui said. “[The program] has really taught us a lot as far as restaurant and food management.”

While support from partners will give both Gaui’s and Hinojosa’s businesses opportunity to grow, Gaui, said working with others has not only helped him, but also his community.

“Meeting the people within the communities has been beneficial because of the partnerships PIK2AR has developed with all these other organizations,” Gaui said. “It’s a healthier community for us if we all are working with each other.”

If you know a small business owner looking for resources and help, visit to inquire about partners positioned to help specific needs.

By: Channing Gibbs

How can Utah cities overcome the housing crisis? Housing panel discusses solutions, middle housing development

March 23, 2022

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Utah Foundation Breakfast Briefing on Missing Middle Housing

As the Utah housing crisis continues to impact thousands of residents, many are urgently seeking answers to the growing challenges of housing affordability and access. So, what are the answers?

Panelists of housing experts across multiple industries stressed the importance of missing middle housing as a solution at Utah Foundation’s breakfast briefing on Tuesday, March 22.

“What we’re seeing from [housing pricing is] almost $600,000 for a new single-family home, that’s just not attainable by any means,” said Jake Young, planning program manager for Salt Lake County. “A townhome, a condo … that’s where missing middle housing is going to be more affordable for low- to moderate-income families.”

Middle housing, characterized by its house-scaled size with multiple living units, is meant to look like single-family houses to fit in with communities and neighborhoods. A variety of different types can be incorporated, allowing for more housing available to residents.

“Our research suggests [residents] don’t only want to live in large apartment complexes, but they also don’t want it in their communities,” Utah Foundation Vice President Shawn Teigen said. “What [residents] do say is if we’re going to see more housing development, let’s see development that looks more like single-family houses, such as missing middle housing units.”

Implementing middle housing is more important as a shortage of nearly 50,000 homes, as well as Utah's lowest vacancy rate in 37 years, puts a strain on both homebuyers and renters.

Beth Holbrooke, UTA Trustee and real estate agent, said planning missing middle housing along transit, known as transit-oriented development, will provide much needed housing density and connect communities together.

“[Transit Oriented Development] is more than just development, it’s a connectivity piece,” Holbrooke said. “‘How am I going to walk to a grocery store?’ ‘How am I going to connect in some way to my community?’ and that’s why we have to start looking at [housing development] fundamentally different.”

Cameron Diehl, executive director of Utah League of Cities and Towns, also said he hoped creating middle housing around transit will alleviate housing issues.

“One of the tricky things we see around transit is that a lot of the housing that gets built isn’t actually affordable,” Diehl said. "Hopefully, we’ll have a good story to tell over the next couple of years as you see more of these middle housing units that are affordable that are popping up in these station area plans.”

As cities and local government look for ways to facilitate missing middle housing, Young said providing more affordable housing will increase the quality of life for families in need.

“Many families want a single-family home, but they can’t afford it, they may not want to live in [apartment complexes] and want to live in a neighborhood,” Young said. “With missing middle housing, you can have neighborhoods with density that looks and feels like a single-family neighborhood and what you get is a nice quality of life for kids, families, seniors and neighborhoods.”

Learn more about middle housing in Salt Lake County at


By: Channing Gibbs

The Game of Hunting for Parking Drove a Mom to Try Public Transit. Now, She's a Convert and has Real-Life Tips for Utahns.

February 25, 2022

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If you’re an adult and never tried different types of public transit, it might be a little intimidating at first. But if you do venture out of your comfort zone, you just might have some experiences like Carrie Marsh.

Carrie Marsh taking transit.JPG

Carrie, who lives in Bountiful, works in Salt Lake County’s Office of Regional Development and took her first ride ever in January 2019. She had started school at the University of Utah and got a parking pass but was frustrated by the cutthroat hunt to find parking on campus. (Those trying to park at the Merrill Lot past 9 a.m. likely know her pain.) Since she lived a 5-minute walk from two bus routes and got a bus pass on her U Card, she decided to try transit.

“I was a little nervous, but it was surprisingly easy!” Carrie said. “I used Google Maps and a Transit tracking app to easily get on and off the bus exactly where I needed to. It saved me a lot of time with parking and walking. I loved being able to get on the bus and listen to a reading or work on my laptop.”

Since that first ride, Carrie has become a huge user and advocate of public transit — her family was even able to downsize to be a one-car family.

Odds are, there are lots of benefits you might not know of. She’s here to share some real-life tips.

What to Do as a First-Time User

  1. Download and use the Transit App. It’ll help you plan your route and help you track timing and waits.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the stop so you don’t worry about missing the bus or train.
  3. Start with direct routes as much as you can, or one that has a 5–10-minute wait between transfers. Transfers can be stressful when the time frame is short.
  4. Keep safety concerns in perspective. Public transit isn’t full of scary people, and Utah is mostly a safe place. If it makes you comfortable, have a plan for riding at night.

It’s Easier to Use Than Most People Think

Carrie’s advice? Use the Transit App.

Travel Easier to Major Destinations

Did you know most major destinations are within a ¼ mile of a transit stop? Carrie said she rarely walks long distances, which is huge when you have kids who don’t want to walk or are slow. The proximity of stops (especially FrontRunner and TRAX) to major destinations can be faster than driving, (sometimes paying for) parking, and walking.

When Carrie and her family took the FrontRunner to Utah County in February, they skipped lots of traffic on the way. And on the way home? They played card games together as a family.

Discover Local Gems

One thing Carrie found is the opportunity to discover new places and experiences simply because she was within walking distance or a quick transit ride away. Her family discovered a fun bakery during #FreeFare February because they arrived at their destination early one weekend and saw it across the street!

Life Skills & Independence for Teens and Young People

One thing she and her family learned is that public transit offers independence and life skills for teens.

  1. You must be on time.
  2. It helps learn navigation, geography, and familiarity with your community.
  3. It’s less risky than driving. (Hello, car payments in 2022 if you can get one and high insurance rates.)
  4. It’s a great option for groups of friends, that enriches their social experiences. If you don’t have a 12-passenger van, it takes the hard work of figuring out whose parents can drive eight kids somewhere.

Carrie Marsh family transit.JPG

With anything, there can be cons, and Carrie admits those. What are benefits to her, might not be a positive in her teenager’s book. If you’re juggling school pick-ups, lessons, sports, and naptimes, it’s not the most efficient in a time crunch and can be more costly for an entire family. It can also be challenging when a destination isn’t close to a stop and requires more walking.

For Carrie, the positive impacts on air quality, fostering independence in teens, and reducing the stress of driving is enough.

“Public transit is important because it increases access to opportunities for all people by connecting people from where they live with where they work or want to recreate,” Carrie said. “Public transit is also important for reducing cars on the road, which reduces pollution (cars are the biggest source) and the cost of having to build more infrastructure.”

Carrie is a GIS and Planning Technician in Salt Lake County’s Office of Regional Development and is finishing a master’s degree at the University of Utah in city/urban, community and regional planning.

How 2002 Winter Olympic Games shaped regional development in Salt Lake County

February 17, 2022

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A tall building with a sign on it.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The games, which brought an array of development to Utah, put Salt Lake County on the world stage and ushered in people from around the world to the community. While Utah looks to potentially host another Winter Olympics, Salt Lake County also looks at some of the impacts from the 2002 games.

Economic Impact

The Olympics sparked economic growth for Utah both during and after the games. With just over 1.5 million tickets sold, Utah made an estimated $4.8 million in gross sales from the Olympics.

But, the games also brought in $1.5 billion for Utah workers, according to the Salt Lake Chamber. An estimated 45,000 job-years were produced, accounting for 20% of job growth from 1998-2002, according to the International Olympic Committee.

After the 2002 Olympics, the economy continued to grow, attracting people to ski resorts and future sports events. Since the games, Utah has hosted 60 world cups and seven championships, including in Salt Lake County, according to the IOC. Nine hundred events were drawn to Utah, with roughly 250 being Olympic related, according to the Utah Sports Commission. In addition to hosting events, since the Olympics, Utah has experienced:

  • 25% increase in hotel room rents from 2002 to 2009
  • 42% percent increase in skier visits since the games
  • 67% increase in expenditures from skiers and snowboarders – from $704 million in 2002-03 to $1.2 billion in 2010-11

An endowment of $59 million helped fund the construction of the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, as well as the Utah Olympic Park and cross-country skiing venue at the Soldier Field Nordic Center. The funds also helped expand Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Olympic Village.

With a $72 million endowment from the games, the former Olympic facilities are still maintained through the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. Since the games, the facilities have seen 1.4 million athlete and visitor use, hosting a variety of sports and youth programs.


To support the transportation needs of the thousands of people coming to Salt Lake County for the Olympics, Utah’s first light rail system, TRAX, was installed. The first TRAX line was built in 1999, connecting Sandy to Salt Lake City. An additional extension was made in 2001 that connected downtown Salt Lake City to the University of Utah campus.

Over the 17 days of the Olympics, 2.5 million trips were made by almost 700,000 people using the Olympic shuttles and TRAX. TRAX and Olympic shuttles in Utah would carry 4.6 million people during the games, according to Utah Transit Authority (UTA).

Since the games, several services have been added to Utah public transportation, including two more TRAX lines, FrontRunner, a commuter rail line, and multiple bus routes. As of 2019, TRAX has given 284.3 million rides, with 50 stations across three lines available to riders.

UTA also recently started growing the number of electric buses on its fleet, which will help improve air quality for decades to come.

Future Olympics

With the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics ending, Utah leaders have another Winter Olympics on their minds. In 2021, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee officially backed Salt Lake City for hosting another winter games.

Hosting the Olympics may create another economic boom. More winter sports, as well as more efficient games due to already existing venues, would bring in additional athletes and viewers that would “further strengthen the economic impact of hosting another Olympic Games,” according to a 2018 report by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

As State, County, and City leaders look to a 2030 or 2034 bid, environmental sustainability, transportation, and housing will continue to be priorities paramount to residents and future economic growth.

By: Channing Gibbs