‘We really are in a very strong place’: Cedar City mayor expresses optimism about future of Festival City

Cedar City's holiday light display along Main Street, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 28, 2020 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Notwithstanding the challenges associated with dealing with COVID-19 over the past year, Cedar City’s outlook is bright, Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards said during her recent State of the City address.

In this November 2020 file photo, Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards speaks at unveiling of Native American art installation near the corner of 100 West and Center Street, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 11, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Wilson-Edwards, who spoke during the Economic Review Breakfast sponsored by the Cedar City Area Chamber of Commerce in February, spoke of the various difficulties the community faced in 2020.

“Our hospitality industry took a huge hit,” she said, noting that both the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Summer Games, two of the area’s top tourist draws, were among the various events canceled or postponed last year. 

“Some businesses have closed. Many have struggled,” she said of the effects of the pandemic. “We all know someone who has been sick. Some have died.”

Nevertheless, she said, the Cedar City community has still managed to do remarkably well in a number of areas.

Among the bright spots, according to the mayor, were that transient room taxes – taxes on temporary lodging such as hotels, trailer courts and campgrounds – after taking a hit between March and August of 2020, rebounded and saw positive gains in both September (11%) and November (14%), although October was down slightly (-1%).

New jobs also saw an overall increase of 4% between September 2019 and September 2020. Although hospitality related jobs declined by 10% and government employment, including higher education, slipped 6%, many other jobs were added in areas such as retail trade, manufacturing and construction, more than offsetting the jobs lost in other areas.

“With the loss of low-paying, part time jobs and the addition of higher paying jobs, our average county wage jumped by 6%,” Wilson-Edwards added.

Cedar City also  saw an 18.3% percent increase in gross taxable sales from 2019 to 2020, Wilson-Edwards said, noting that Utah’s state average was 10.2%. Most of Cedar’s gains were in the area of retail trade sales, including online sales, building materials, groceries and general merchandise.

Main Street in downtown Cedar City, Utah, April 24, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Octopus Apothecary Facebook page, St George News / Cedar City News

Along those same lines, Wilson-Edwards noted that numerous new businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, services and manufacturers have opened in town over the past year, with more scheduled to announce their grand openings soon.

Additionally, Cedar City issued an all-time high number of 819 building permits in 2020, a 39% increase from the 591 issued in 2019.

The city-owned Cedar Ridge Golf Course saw a hefty 40% increase in business in 2020, or $240,000 more than the previous year. The statewide average bump for golf course revenues was 15%, the mayor noted.

During her presentation, Wilson-Edwards also talked about new and upcoming improvements at Cedar City Regional Airport, in addition to several road and infrastructure projects. She also mentioned various other topics, such as the Port 15 inland port, historic downtown improvement and beautification projects, recreation center expansion plans, water rights, broadband connectivity and business innovation.

Wilson-Edwards later told Cedar City News she plans to highlight many of these same ideas in her upcoming monthly newsletter, along with another invitation and reminder for residents to participate in the city’s Master Plan Update survey and planning efforts.

Construction work at the future site of Goex plastics manufacturing facility, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 20, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The city is also refining and updating the community’s Transportation Master Plan, which also involves Enoch, its neighboring city to the north.

“We’re in a phenomenal financial position, as far as our financial health,” Wilson-Edwards told Cedar City News on Tuesday. “We have some really good things planned for the future. We have jobs increasing, wages increasing and sales tax increasing. So all of those things that, when you look at other states and you look nationwide, that make it so discouraging, we’re just not seeing that here. … We really are in a very strong place as a community. So I’m quite optimistic and excited to see what the future holds.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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