Editor’s note: this post is taken from prepared remarks delivered by Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie at the Utah Foundation’s Improving Utah’s Quality of Life breakfast.
Many of you may be familiar with the great Irving Berlin musical “Annie Get Your Gun.”
There is a number in the production in which Annie, a gun-tottin’ sharp shooter, explains her simple ways to hotel owner Frank Wilson.
The number is called, “Doin’ what comes natur’lly.”
My uncle out in Texas can’t even write his name.
He signs his checks with “x’s”
But they cash them just the same.
If you saw my pa and ma,
You’d know they had no learning,
Still they’ve raised a family
Doin’ what comes naturally
Despite Annie’s argument that things are best when you do “what comes naturally,” we know that isn’t always the case.
Some challenges require the courage to do what does not come naturally.
Overcoming challenges requires extraordinary effort.
This is particularly true in the face of economic challenges we face today.
We must summon the courage to overcome the natural tendency to turn inward, to protect what we have and to hunker down.
Getting our economy back on track will require hard work, trust and vision.
This morning more than 100,000 Utahns woke up, ready and able to go to work, but they had no job to go to.
That is unacceptable.
The good news is the Utah economy is adding jobs, and we are attracting the jobs of the future.
Twitter is bringing jobs to Utah; FL Smidth (Schmidt) is adding 150 jobs to its newly completed building in Midvale and Goode Ski Technologies is moving its entire production line form China to Ogden.
We are now home to the second largest Goldman Sachs operation in the Americas.
We have strengthened our homegrown businesses like Overstock.com, Fusion i-o and Café Rio.
Intermountain Healthcare is adding 300 jobs as it establishes the Homer Warner Center for Informatics Research.
Harmons is adding 500 jobs both as a great example of transit oriented development having just opened a new store next to the FrontRunner station in Farmington, and also as a key part of the Downtown Rising movement as they have a new store set to open in the near future in downtown Salt Lake City.
During the Great Recession, we have out-performed the nation. In fact, during the month of August the Utah economy created more jobs than the entire U.S. economy! (Let’s be honest…that is scarier than it is comforting, but true nonetheless.)
Today, the Utah economy is poised to lead the nation.
We have the workforce, infrastructure and pro-business policies to make it happen.
Back in January of this year… the Salt Lake Chamber introduced a plan to put Utahns back to work. We call it the Utah Jobs Agenda.
The Utah Jobs Agenda is a private sector plan to create 150,000 jobs over the next five years.
It consists of economic fundamentals, when combined with purposeful and effective business leadership, will help create 150,000 Utah jobs over the next five years.
We allowed for a bit of a ramp-up on this agenda so we set the first year goal at 18,000 jobs. So far we are on pace.
The Utah Jobs Agenda covers ten points:
I’d like to focus on just three of these today—specifically the three elements wherein our natural reaction is to turn inward when we need to do just the opposite to produce the results we are after.
Free Trade Agreements
The first is international business, specifically free trade.
When economic storms arrive, opponents of free trade are quick to label our export policies as part of the problem. They call for isolationist policies.
International trade keeps prices low, increases our competitively and creates jobs. If putting up barriers and protecting what you have worked, North Korea would be the most prosperous nation on the planet. It is not.
Just last week, the President sent free trade agreements to Congress for approval. If things go as expected we’ll have new FTAs with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. These agreements will create and further support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.
Our natural instinct is to turn inward… our best path forward requires us to turn outward.
The second point I would like to discuss is immigration.
This is another issue where fear and uncertainty give rise to extreme viewpoints. One sees 100,000 Utahns are out of work and hears the estimate that there are 110,000 undocumented workers in our state. They put two and two together and come up with 22. It’s simple but it is the wrong conclusion.
There is broad agreement among mainstream economists that market-driven immigration increases productivity, boosts real wages and grows the economy.
Immigrant labor not only complements native labor, it spurs innovation and entrepreneurship, two hallmarks of economic progress in the 21st Century.
Immigrant labor, ingenuity and purchasing power are critical components of the Utah economy. Utah immigrants – both documented and undocumented – comprise a large and vital part of the Utah economy as business owners, workers, consumers and taxpayers.
Our immigration system in this country is broken. The federal government has ignored the problem for far too long. Last year, the Chamber joined a group of organizations in signing The Utah Compact. This simple, succinct document changed the course and tone of the immigration discussion in our state.
Ultimately, we passed and signed into law the Utah Guest Worker program, set to go into effect in 2013. We now have our back-up plan in place.
As stated in the first principle of The Utah Compact, immigration is a federal issue.
The Chamber has and will continue to urge our federal delegation to push for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
We need more high-skilled workers and lower skilled workers. Those that come to our nation and are educated in our schools should be encouraged to stay here and create jobs.
Our instincts may tell us to protect the jobs we have and to look at others with suspicion.
Doing what comes naturally is not a viable option.
We need comprehensive reform that helps businesses get the best, the smartest, the most determined and the hardest working to help drive the American—and the Utah—economy.
The final policy I would like to discuss is education.
Businesses in our state—large and small—all rely on one key ingredient.
We’ve all heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Well, a business is only as strong as its employees.
More than tax structure, more than overhead costs, more than supply chains… it’s the people that do the work, that make the decisions, that bring ideas to life… People make businesses successful.
Businesses cannot thrive without a well-educated workforce.
The time has come for business to be more involved in education in our state.
If you think about it… business is education’s largest customer.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s employees. Before you know it they will be managers, then directors, the executives.
We have worked hard to lay the foundation of a thriving economy.
We need to ensure that those who will inherit the fruits of today’s labor are prepared to advance our efforts.
The Salt Lake Chamber is committed to working with chambers of commerce throughout the state, and organizations including:
-Citizens for Educational Excellence
-Economic Development Corporation of Utah
-Friends for Utah Higher Education
-Governor’s Office of Economic Development
-Junior Achievement of Utah
-United Way Salt Lake Chamber… and
-Utah Technology Council
We’ve come together to create Prosperity 2020.
Our vision is that Utah’s well-educated and trained workforce will propel us to enduring prosperity, improved quality of life and the strongest economy in the nation.
A business led movement will naturally embrace business principles. We will set goals and work toward achieving them. And we will measure our progress.
To achieve our vision we have set some initial goals:
-We want 90 percent of 3rd graders reading at grade level.
-We want 90 percent of elementary students to achieve math and reading proficiency.
-And two-thirds of Utahns should achieve postsecondary training by 2020.
To be a prosperous community we must be a well-educated community. All our other efforts are driven by the steady flow of educated workers.
The temptation with education is not so much to turn inward but to kick the can down the road.
Difficult economic times will send weaker men and women running in different directions. The challenges will cause some to think only of themselves and protecting what they have.
Our challenge is to work together, to see the vision of what Utah can be, to chart our course and to move steadily toward it.
I truly believe there is no place like this on earth. Our sense of community will propel us through the challenging times and we will lead the nation on the road to prosperity.
Thank you very much.