Utah businesses compete in the global marketplace and one expert says we’ll have to increase our connection to western metropolitan areas to remain competitive.
Michael Gallis is an urban strategist based in Charlotte, N.C. He addressed a group of business leaders at the Salt Lake Chamber Monday morning.
“The west is very unlike the east,” says Gallis. “You have a lot of open space (in the west) and the metro areas function like islands. When you think of economic growth in a global economy, you think of creating access and interactions between the islands.”
Gallis says Utah has done a tremendous job connecting Ogden and Provo to Salt Lake City with investments in mobility–think the I-15 CORE project and UTA’s FrontRunner which connects into light rail in Salt Lake County. He says that same kind of connection between SLC and neighbor cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles will be increasingly important in the years ahead.
Gallis cites the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1960s as the catalyst for the stingiest period of economic growth in U.S. history post-World War II. He says making that connection between cities in a way trains did not, made all the difference.
“This issue of creating levels of connectivity through which we can interact more freely is fundamental to economic growth,” says Gallis “Are we going to drop out of the grid or strengthen our connection to the grid? Thats’ the challenge and the opportunity for us today.”
The proliferation of the internet and the impact it has on communication and commerce, makes a physical connection between “island metros” even more critical.
“You can use eBay to sell your product to the world; you can be a global businessman yourself–in fact many people are,” says Gallis. “But that involves still the shipping and movement of goods. So we still have the importance of moving people and goods through the world.”