A Giant In Our City – Michael O. Leavitt

Friday, April 11th, 2014

On Thursday, April 10, the Salt Lake Chamber honored former Utah governor Michael O. Leavitt as A Giant In Our City, one of the most prestigious business awards in the state. You can learn more about the award here.

To a crowd of more than 1,500 people, from business and community leaders to politicians and more, former Massachusetts governor and former presidential nominee Mitt Romney shared a handful of personal memories, including those involving Gov. Leavitt’s love for practical jokes.

It was a wonderful evening as we honored such a great man. As Salt Lake Chamber President & CEO Lane Beattie said, “One of the best things about the Giant In Our City award is the inspiration these Giants give us all–to be better people and to do our part.”

See photos from the Giant in Our City event on Flickr.

Press release: http://slchamber.com/news-room/read/article/256

Media Coverage – Fox 13  |  Deseret News  |  Salt Lake Tribune 

*   *   *

This was Gov. Leavitt’s acceptance speech at the Giant In Our City gala on April 10, 2014. 

Shortly after the 2008 election, Jackie and I joined Mitt and Ann, and some other friends for a short stay in a tiny Caribbean country. We were escorted to the customs office. It consisted of single desk in what looked like a warehouse building next to the airport.

While filling out the required papers Mitt came to the blank requiring occupation. He said, “Hmmm, occupation—how should I answer that?”

A member of the group made a suggestion. “Mitt, put—President, searching for a country.”

In about a year, our country will again be searching for a President. If you’re available, I, and countless others, will once again, be at your side.

A few years ago, I represented the United States at international meetings held in Russia. As part of the trip, I met with a member of the Russian Duma (their Congress). It turns out, he was a famous polar explorer. He regaled us with stories of his conquests, and displayed his awards. Let’s just say, he had a big personality.

As we stood to leave, we exchanged business cards. Underneath his name was listed his title: “Hero of the Russian People.” Now there’s a great title. Tomorrow, I’m going to order some new business cards. They will simply say, “Mike Leavitt, Giant In Our City.” How good is that?

So, thank you very much.

In all seriousness, this designation is far more than a great title. It is a singular honor. Being included on the same list as the true giants, who have previously received this honor, is among the most notable and kindest things ever expressed about me.

Your kindness is rightly shared by my wife and partner in everything, Jackie. She is the giant in my life. She is the North Star of our family. She is the person living at our address who most deserving of admiration.

I wish to recognize my children and extended family. They provide me unwavering love and support. A quick story captures a glimpse of their sacrifice.

I had been governor about for about a year. Often I sent the highway patrol security detail home when I had no public duties. An errand needed to be run, so I took our son Chase and we drove to the store in our family’s car. Chase was about eight years old at the time. When we reached the store, he looked around and said, “Daddy, what about the police?”
“The police?” I said.
“What if the police catch you not working?”

I realized he thought that the highway patrol traveled with his dad to make sure he never quit working. I knew at that moment, my life needed an adjustment.

For a young family, living in the governors’ mansion is an adventure. One day I called the family quarters at the mansion. Westin, who was about three, answered the phone. The conversation went something like this:

“Can I talk to Mom?”
“She’s busy.”
“What about Anne Marie?”
“She’s busy too.”
“What are they busy doing?”
“Looking for me.”

One summer morning, our teenage sons, asked if it was okay to have a few friends over to the mansion on Friday night to see a boxing match on television. There is a large room in the basement and on nights like that, it was not uncommon to have a big group of their friends over to watch a sporting event of some sort. I would go down and enjoy it with them.

Just after dark, Jackie and drove down South Temple street, returning from an event at the University. From about 9th east I could see this very strange glow on the side of the governor’s mansion. As we got closer I could see that the entire east side of the mansion had been covered in white. The boys had used PVC pipe, rope, old bed sheets and masking tape to create a massive movie screen and draped it over the entire east side of the mansion. It looked like a drive-in movie. I could see boxers that we 30 feet tall all the way from 8th east. As I got closer I could see kids, lots and lots of kids, sitting on the lawn, noisily cheering the fighters.

As we walked up the drive way, I said to the head of the mansion security,
“What in the world is going on here?”
“Guv,” he said, “the boys said you were okay with this.”

Jackie, not a fight fan, said, “I think you need to handle this.” She retired to the house, only to find our bedroom was now covered by the backlit images of sweaty boxers.

As I got to the backyard, I noticed Mike and Taylor busily working the crowd, and their five year old brother Westin and sister, Anne Marie, at the back gate collecting admissions to cover the cost of pay-per-view. And the kids, well, they just kept coming. By the time the main event arrived, there were hundreds. To their credit, they were noisy but behaved.

I thought—what’s a guy to do at this point? I found a place on the grass and enjoyed what turned out to be a great fight night.

To our son Taylor, a teenager, the mansion was an endless opportunity for practical jokes. He had a very realistic rubber arm he would occasionally use to startle someone. I was okay with that until a particular night when we were entertaining an arts group in the main parlor. A harpist played as people mingled. As I spoke with a rather prominent woman, I could tell from her eyes that she was a bit startled and distracted—eyes focused on the fireplace. As I turned around, there it was, the arm—dangling from chimney.

There’s not much to say at a moment like that. I said, “Do you have teenagers?” The good news was, she did.

It is a tribute to Jackie, that each of our five children weathered the experience and are productive and responsible adults, in whom we are enormously proud. Best of all, they are producing grandchildren, several of whom are here tonight. Likewise, my parents and several of my brothers are here.

Being governor is a wonderful experience. Being a member of the governor’s family sometimes isn’t. They have all endured moments of ironic unfairness and remained wonderfully supportive.

As many of you know, my father’s name is Dixie. He preceded me in Utah politics, representing southern Utah in the legislature for many years. St. George is known as Utah’s Dixie. Early Mormon pioneers thought the area reminded them of the south. The word Dixie has been written in giant white letters across the red rock mesa, visible to the entire town. Tonight, I am prepared to confession that I was 15 years old before I figured out that my Dad didn’t really write his name on that mountain.

Likewise, this audience is peppered with colleagues, legislators, business leaders, supporters and friends I worked side by side with. Thank you for yet another expression of support. I will acknowledge, for all of us, what a remarkable privilege public service is. The best rewards are a sense of accomplishment and friendships. Both last forever.

And of course, I wish to thank the SL Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of this dinner for choosing to honor me in this way. Lane Beattie, President of the Chamber, requires a special and personal thank you. Over the years, Lane and I have served shoulder to shoulder. For the entire time I was governor, Lane was either majority leader or President of the Utah Senate. As you know, the relationship between governors and legislatures are designed to produce tension. However, in the end, things have to be done, agreement has to be reached. The process requires leaders who have the confidence of their colleagues and a knack for knowing when to facilitate the deal. Many of the things history will point to as shaping the state’s future, Lane Beattie was a major force in making it happen.

The Chamber of Commerce, under Lane’s leadership, and with the support of his remarkable board, has become a powerful influence for good in our state. The organization provides important leadership in this state and a voice of reason.

We have a great state with a proud tradition of success and prosperity. I have come to understand that public leadership is a generation relay.Many of the most profound problems are not ours to solve with finality, but rather to incrementally improve during our temporary stewardship.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is a part of the foundation of this great state. Thanks to them for honoring me. Thanks to all of you for attending.

Op-ed: Flexible, Utah-specific solution best for Medicaid

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by Marc Bennett and Andrew Croshaw (from the Chamber’s Health System Task Force) for the Salt Lake Tribune. You can find the original here. 

While Utah would not have chosen the difficult dilemma we now face, action on the issue of expansion of Medicaid coverage must be taken to respond to a significant flaw in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Why is this? Utahns are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes in order to fund insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion occurring in other states. While this is neither fair nor right, it is the current reality.

So, what can we do?

As one of the best managed, most fiscally prudent and business friendly states in the nation, Utah should embrace a solution that is flexible and Utah-specific. Our business community and our citizens already benefit from a state health system that is the envy of the nation. The innovations, efficiencies and talented work force in Utah’s health care industry drive down costs and deliver better outcomes for our state.

We need a Utah solution that considers the financial resources of our state and also the health needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Our solution must avoid leaving some 60,000 Utahns without health care coverage. Failure to do so will ensure increased health care premiums for all insured Utahns and for every business in our state, as we all pay for the costs of uncovered emergency room utilization and other unpaid care.

Our community will be healthier and financially stronger as we utilize available federal dollars to provide access to health coverage for the poorest among us. This is both the right thing for our citizens most in need and the right thing for our economy.

We should pursue all available federal dollars to develop a flexible solution that strengthens a competitive, private insurance market, promotes individual accountability by those receiving assistance, and prevents the state from being left on the hook for providing additional ongoing benefits if the federal government becomes unable or unwilling to hold up its end of the bargain.

We believe these aims can be achieved through the innovative approach Gov. Gary Herbert is proposing.

The difficult choices that now lay before the Legislature are complex. Sound economic and moral principles drive good public policy.

To that end, we should advance Herbert’s proposal to keep Utahns’ hard earned dollars in Utah to care for the poorest among us while also strengthening the private health care market.

WHM Feature – Rebecca Chavez-Houck

Monday, March 24th, 2014

This post is part of a series of blogs that feature prominent businesswomen in Utah to celebrate Women’s History Month. 

Today we’re featuring Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. Read on!

*   *   *

What role do you play within your organization?
I am Assistant Minority Whip for the Democratic Caucus of the Utah House of Representatives. I have represented the constituents of House District 24 since 2008.

What boards do you serve on?
Envision Utah (Executive Committee, Board of Directors)
ACLU of Utah (Board of Directors)

I also serve on the advisory boards of HEAL Utah, Plan B Theatre Company and the Utah AIDS Foundation. Prior service includes serving on the governing boards of Intermountain Healthcare, YWCA, Planned Parenthood Action Council and Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, as well as the standing committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

In what other ways are you involved in the community?
I teach in the Master of Public Administration program at the U of U, serving as adjunct faculty since 2010.

One of my most rewarding experiences was hosting a weekly Latino public affairs radio program on KRCL 91FM, for 15 years, starting in 1989.

I am a current member of the Utah Women’s Forum and served as past president (2007).

Tell us about your most rewarding professional experience.
I have garnered many rewarding professional experiences during my nearly 30 years of work in nonprofit administration and public affairs for the following organizations:

- Utah Public Employees Association
- Girl Scouts of Utah
- Utah Museum of Natural History
- Centro de la Familia de Utah

I’ve been enriched by the cumulative and unique learning opportunities offered by each of my professional and volunteer endeavors, including my activism within the Utah State Democratic Party (where I served on the state Executive Committee) and Salt Lake Democratic Party (where I served as 2nd Vice President). It’s difficult to identify a single experience, because my reward has been cumulative.

What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in business today? What is your recommendation to resolve that issue?
Challenges continue to exist in the area of work-life balance for many women. I had the benefit of having very generous family members who provided support and assistance with child care when my children were young. Not every young family has this assistance readily at hand. There are hopeful changes on the horizon, where we see more fathers taking the lead in child-rearing and other family duties (i.e. more stay-at-home dads), but I don’t know whether this trend is as valued in Utah to the extent that it is in other metropolitan areas of the US.

Our Utah culture still often devalues the economic contributions of women in the workforce and as entrepreneurs. I am disappointed that women are still often overlooked for promotions because men are often seen as the main breadwinners in Utah families, when statistics prove otherwise.

The future economic vitality of Utah is contingent on the economic success of both women and men.

What pearl of wisdom would you share with young female professionals?
Surround yourself with personal and professional cheerleaders who believe in you and who support and take pride in your endeavors. Your life partner should be someone who is not self–centered, but instead someone who values the contributions of women in the workplace, home, and community, and exemplifies that value in his or her words, opinions, and actions. Observe how your potential life partner treats women in his life (mother, sisters, women friends, work colleagues).

Always be prepared to provide for yourself and your family: the best laid plans can be waylaid by tragic circumstances that are beyond your control. Being a good mother to one or two children is just as rewarding as being a mother to many. Live within your means. Always be open to learning from your experiences and grab opportunities that avail themselves to you.

Serendipity is an amazing thing–be willing to take calculated risks.

*   *   *

The United States has celebrated National Women’s History Month, highlighting the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society, since 1911.

The National Women’s History Project has dubbed the theme for this year, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment,” which honors the extraordinary accomplishments, determination and tenacity of women. Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generations to come.

WHM Feature – Jennifer Seelig

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This post is part of a series of blogs that feature prominent businesswomen in Utah to celebrate Women’s History Month. 

Today we’re featuring Jennifer Seelig. Read on!

*   *   *

What role do you play in your organization?
As the Democratic Leader in the Utah House of Representatives, it is my responsibility to organize the talents of caucus members, including committee placements, legislative priorities, and to assist each member as they develop their legislative voice. I provide leadership to the caucus and communicate a singular message on important issues, assist in unifying the caucus, and coordinate efforts between the majority and minority caucuses.

What boards do you serve on?

· YWCA Public Policy Advisory Group
· SpyHop Advisory Board
· Junior League of SLC – Community Advisor
· Utah Pride Center – Board of Directors
· Women in Government Foundation – Board of Directors
· State Legislative Leaders – Board of Directors
· WAND – Board of Directors

Tell us about your most rewarding professional experience.
In 2013, I was honored to be the legislator who, after nearly a decade, was able to pass the Dating Violence Protection Act. I was not the first legislator to propose such protections, but I was the one who carried the baton across the finish line after years of hard work from legislators and advocates across the state. This was a success to me not because of my name on the legislation, but because of amazing empowerment the stakeholders and I were able to watch blossom in the hearts and minds of people who fell victim to this kind of abuse. I will never forget those who came before and worked hard with me, who dedicated their time and energy to such a worthy cause.

What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in business today?
Women absolutely have to fight for balance between their professional and personal lives. That is not a fight everyone has to face. As our world grows and changes, many businesses will begin adopting policies that are no longer divisive, but instead support all types of workers and their families through time flexibility and other creative alternatives.

What pearl of wisdom would you share with young female professionals?
Never give up.

*   *   *

The United States has celebrated National Women’s History Month, highlighting the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society, since 1911.

The National Women’s History Project has dubbed the theme for this year, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment,” which honors the extraordinary accomplishments, determination and tenacity of women. Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generations to come.

Also in honor of this month, the WBC‘s Business Women’s Forum is hosting a breakfast on Tuesday, March 18, presented by Girl Scouts of Utah at Hotel Monaco. You can find out more and register here

Unemployment hits a five-year low in Utah

Thursday, March 13th, 2014


The beginning of March marked a great announcement from the State of Utah.

The Salt Lake Chamber joined Gov. Gary Herbert to announce that Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, according to the Department of Workforce Services. The unemployment rate in Utah hasn’t been below 4 percent since November 2008.

Currently, the national unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, which is 2.7 points higher than it is in the Beehive State.

This is a testament to the great work of Utah’s private sector business leaders for helping create jobs. In the past 12 months, Utah has added nearly 35,000 jobs to the workforce, contributing to a 2.8 percent job growth rate. Thanks to this, Utah’s economy is gaining momentum and moving towards a strong 2014.

The Salt Lake Chamber joins with Gov. Gary Herbert to make job creation a top priority. We support the governor’s plan to facilitate the creation of 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. As of right now, Utah is over the 70,000 mark for this goal, which is ahead of pace. The Chamber also has a complimentary private sector job creation plan, the Utah Jobs Agenda. This year, Utah’s private sector is set to achieve the Utah Jobs Agenda goal of creating 150,000 jobs in five years—more than a year ahead of schedule. We will continue to make job creation a major focus.

Utah’s economy and business climate continues to be strong, thanks to sensible and stable taxes, a well-educated workforce and our investment in infrastructure. These are things we need to sustain in order to keep up this kind of progress–and with the collaborative spirit of Utah, that’s something we can certainly do.

Breaking down Utah’s caucus political process

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Didn’t have a chance to attend the caucus training at the Salt Lake Chamber this week?

The Chamber held a great caucus training on Wednesday free for anyone to attend. We had a great turnout and look forward to holding more training sessions in the next caucus cycle!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend, we want to make sure you have the information you need to participate in your caucus meeting next week. Below is an overview of the political process in Utah and an explanation of how you can participate. If you have any other questions contact the Republican State Party or the Democratic State Party.

*   *   *

Utah’s Political Process:

Step One: Precinct Caucus Meetings (March)

·     Meet with many of your local party members to elect several delegates that attend State and County Conventions.
·     March 18 for Democrats, March 20 for Republicans
·     You can now preregister to cut down on waiting line times, visit your party’s state website for more details.

Step Two: Convention (April/May)

·     As an elected delegate, you next attend your County or State Convention.
·     Delegates nominate or narrow the party’s candidates for elected offices. If a candidate does not receive 60 percent or more of the delegate votes in Convention, they move to a primary election in order to qualify for the general election.
·     Delegates also elect national delegates to attend the National Party Convention.
·     Anyone can attend Convention; only delegates can vote.

Step Three: Primary Election (June 24)

·     Party members vote on races that were too close to call at Convention.
·     Candidates that win their Primary Election advance to the General Election.

Step Four: General Election (November 4)

·     Every registered voter votes on all offices up for election, initiatives and referendums.

*   *   *

 Need more info? Have questions? Contact your state party!

Republican Party Democratic Party 

Caucus Meetings
Thursday, March 20

County Conventions
Throughout March & April

State Party Convention
Saturday, April 26

Caucus Meetings
Tuesday, March 18

County Conventions
Throughout March & April

State Party Convention
Saturday, April 26

This week on the Utah Business Report

Friday, March 7th, 2014

In case you missed one or more of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Utah Business Reports on KSL NewsRadio, here is a recap of what we talked about this week.

When using your phone for data tasks, you want both a reliable and a fast experience: you want to do what you want, when you want, as quickly as possible, without interruption or failure. We use our phones for a variety of data tasks. RootMetrics aims to find out which providers offered the best tested data performance across the country.

I’d like to congratulate AT&T for ranking first in a RootMetrics study looking at the data performance at the top fifty busiest airports across the U.S. Other data providers ranked in the study include Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

AT&T ranked first or tied for first at 36 of the fifty airports studied, including Utah’s own Salt Lake City International Airport.

Categories AT&T came out on top in data performance include: email reliability, email service, upload and download speeds, and web or app performance.

Verizon also ranked first in 19 of the airports involved in the RootMetrics study.

Clean air is a problem that everyone can address. Now there’s a little more help for small businesses to make a difference in Utah’s air quality.

The Department of Workforce Services, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Utah Clean Air Partnership have partnered to provide grants to small businesses to upgrade their current equipment to emission-reducing equipment. Doing this will improve our air quality.

Small businesses can be awarded grants between $500 and $15,000. This grant program is available for businesses with fewer than 100 employees that are located in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah, Utah and Weber Counties.

Small businesses can apply for a grant and learn more information online at the UCAIR  website—which is ucair.org. There is no application deadline and no fees will be charged for the application.

Small businesses in Utah—take charge of your business practices and equipment with this grant to help improve our air quality. Every little bit helps.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This year the Girl Scouts of Utah will dedicate the theme of their International Women’s Day Gala to the Utah business community for their exceptional partnership in showing support for women’s issues. The theme for 2014 is “Girl Scouts Mean Business,” celebrating the business skills that girls learn when they are a part of Girl Scouting.

In correlation with this theme, Girl Scouts of Utah will be honoring Natalie Gochnour as their 2014 “Tough Cookie.” Natalie is the Salt Lake Chamber’s chief economist and associate dean of the University Of Utah David Eccles School Of Business. I can personally say that Natalie is an excellent choice for this award and represents the amazing things women accomplish every day in Utah.

As the Girl Scouts of Utah’s largest annual event, the International Women’s Day Gala has gained local media acclaim and guest attendance has increased by more than 30 percent each year for the past few years.

The gala will take place at the Rail Event Center in Salt Lake City tomorrow, March 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit gsutah.org.

Happy National Women’s History Month! And also happy International Women’s Day today. Since 1911, the United States has celebrated Women’s History Month—an annual month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

This year’s theme, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment,” honors the extraordinary accomplishments, determination and tenacity of women. Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generations to come.

Throughout the month of March, the Salt Lake Chamber, Women’s Business Center and Downtown Alliance will highlight women making a difference in Utah business and the local community. These features will be located on the Chamber blog, which is located at slchamber.com.

The Chamber started this National Women’s History Month recognition program last year. The response was so tremendous that we decided to bring it back this year to recognize the great businesswomen of Utah.

Next month, the Salt Lake Chamber will recognize former Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt as A Giant In Our City. The award is recognized as the most prestigious business award given in Utah. Governor Leavitt will be the 35th person to receive the award in its 44-year history.

From his public service to his success in the private sector, he has had the vision and determination that has elevated the quality of life for all Utahns.

One of only two Utah governors to be elected three times, Leavitt served as Utah’s chief executive from 1993 to 2003. He was appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, then secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in 2005 by President George W. Bush.

During his tenure as governor, Utah had the longest sustained economic expansion in modern state history.

The Giant In Our City gala will take place at the Grand America Hotel on the evening of Thursday, April 10, 2014. Join us in recognizing this remarkable man. You can register for this event here.

For the full reports from this week and weeks past, visit KSL NewsRadio online. Remember to tune in between 12:30 and 1 p.m. to KSL NewsRadio every week day on 102.7 FM or 1160 AM. If your business is doing something great, let us know and we may feature it on the Utah Business Report.

Curiosity Unleashed is about more than great jobs

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Editor’s note: Originally published on Prosperity2020.com, written by Prosperity 2020 Chair Alan Hall. 

Last week in collaboration with the Governor, the STEM Action Center and others, STEM-related companies launched a series of videos about opportunity for Utah children and young adults in STEM fields.

A number of STEM jobs are among the highest paying jobs in Utah. The Utah Technology Council (UTC) created a list of “Hot STEM Occupations in Utah,” many of which are in growth areas. The annual median wage of occupations on the list of 50 occupations related to science, technology, engineering and math ranges from $43,000 for support positions to $187,000 in the medical field.

A number of positions on the list have annual median wages in the $70,000-$90,000 range, including such positions as: software developer, medical and health services manager, industrial engineer, electrical engineer, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, database administrator, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician assistant, and mining engineer. Chemical engineers and petroleum engineers each fall around the $90,000 mark. Positions like computer and information systems managers can be even higher.

It’s one of my passions in life to help create good jobs that enable more people to make a good living and care for their families. STEM careers provide exceptional opportunities. One of our goals at Prosperity 2020 is to help Utah become a top-10 center for these kinds of jobs. It will lift our economy and it will lift our lives.

The business community has rallied around STEM education and expanding opportunities for young people. Our most recent contribution is a series of videos called Curiosity Unleashed.

As important as jobs are, Curiosity Unleashed is about more. It’s about discovery and wonder. It’s about realizing new possibilities, stretching minds, and expanding horizons. It’s about personal growth and the joy of learning and making things better. It’s about the mind, but also about the heart. It’s about fulfillment. It’s about loving to learn and the pull to learn more.

STEM careers allow people to make better life-saving devices, expand the human capacity to organize and create, enrich life, increase comfort, expand capacity, and simply make life better.

As business leaders behind Prosperity 2020, we believe life is about learning and experiencing the wonder of it all. And we believe in the remarkable kids in Utah.

Enjoy Curiosity Unleashed and share it with young people you know who might be a little curious about their futures.

Winter maintenance keeps Utah’s economy moving

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Utah’s winter storms play a critical role in our community and to our economy. Our quality of life would significantly diminish without the Greatest Snow On Earth®. There would be no tourists to pack our resorts, hotels and restaurants or water to fill our reservoirs to enable economic growth.

However, not everything associated with our winter storms are beneficial to the state’s economy. When a big storm hits, the traveling public is at greater risk of crashing, traffic snarls, workers and consumers are delayed, and the economy suffers. Additionally, traffic that is brought to a standstill has a negative impact on our air quality and a hindrance to first-responders. Even some storms for our state’s ski resorts present significant challenges forcing canyon closures and limiting access–negatively impacting tourism.  The economic impact of winter storms is substantial. Lost revenue is in the neighborhood of $35 billion annually from restricted mobility on major interstates nationally as a result of weather.

Locally, Utah’s ability to keep roads clear and traffic moving safely is vital to our economy. By some estimates, the one-day direct impact of major disruptions from a snowstorm cost Utah’s economy nearly $66 million. These losses are the result of reduced consumer spending; lost sales taxes; production and transporting of goods stopped; hourly wages lost; expenses related to fatalities, injury and vehicle damage; plus liability claims against local government agencies responsible for maintaining safe roads.  This far exceeds the state’s $22 million dollar winter maintenance budget for the entire year.

The ability to keep roads clear does require an investment mentality. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) also has been challenged with increased lane miles while being constrained with limited budgets to maintain to keep Utah’s roads safe and commerce flowing. To ensure Utahns and products can reach their destination in a safe and timely fashion, UDOT spends roughly $5 million on just road salt–that’s on top of wages and maintenance of vehicles–among other costs. Making things even more difficult, the unpredictability of the number and severity of winter storms in any given year can also quickly drive up costs.

In order to maximize taxpayer resources, UDOT and its private partners have been innovating new technologies and methods. Reducing waste and more efficiently deploying resources in remote locations, UDOT partnered with LiveView technologies to provide low-cost live streaming web cameras that are estimated to save nearly $200,000 in their first year. Additionally, UDOT utilizes “Ice Slicer” a high performance granular salt from Central Utah which is more cost-effective and efficient in keeping Utah’s roads safe for travel and open for business.

While the economic need is obvious, the funding to support winter maintenance and transportation investments generally in Utah remains in question. The Salt Lake Chamber and the Utah Transportation Coalition is working with the legislature and key stakeholders to push forward Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan and the required investments to keep Utah’s public safe and economy moving.


Source(s): Utah Department of Transportation. “The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm.” IHS Global Insight – study prepared for the American Highway Users Alliance
Source(s): Utah Department of Transportation; “The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm.” IHS Global Insight – study prepared for the American Highway Users Alliance

The 2014 Public Policy Guide and business priorities released

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber released the business community’s priorities for the upcoming General Legislative Session within the 2014 Public Policy Guide. The Public Policy Guide was presented to the speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser Wednesday morning. The guide outlines the Chamber’s position on policy issues including economic development, education, transportation, water, energy and minerals, clean air, outdoor recreation and tourism, Downtown Rising, immigration, international competitiveness, and small business.

“The 2014 Public Policy Guide is a Chamber publication, but it represents the broad-based support of chambers of commerce across the state as well as other important business associations,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “These are the priorities of Utah’s diverse business sectors from across the state and it’s critical that we speak with one voice.”

View and download the 2014 Public Policy Guide PDF here.

Economic Development 
Economic development and job creation is the cornerstone priority for Utah’s business community. The 2014 Public Policy Guide highlights and supports the “Your Utah, Your Future” quality growth strategy, initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Envision Utah, in taking the long-term view on public policy issues. The guide also outlines priorities that will facilitate economic growth and strengthen the economy, including a continued stance against general tax increases not supported by the public, a commitment to eliminating harmful regulation and a collaborative challenge to enhance Utah’s competitiveness through attracting regional corporate headquarters to the state.

“Utah’s economy is extremely well-positioned for continued growth in 2014. The private-sector is set to accomplish the significant goal of creating 150,000 jobs since the recession–more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber and associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. “However, Utah’s economy faces economic headwinds from our nation’s capital and risks economic hardship if we do not address our education system and transportation infrastructure.”

Prosperity 2020
An educated workforce has a direct correlation with economic prosperity and is a top priority for Utah’s business community. To be globally competitive, Utah must return to a top-10 state in overall education rankings. To meet this challenge, the Chamber outlines key priorities to improve: 4th grade reading scores; 8th grade math scores; high school completion and college and career readiness; innovative teaching in public education; and Utah’s ability to reach 66 percent of Utahns with postsecondary degrees or certificates.

“Investing in our children is the best investment we can make as a community,” said Alan Hall, Chair ofProsperity 2020, founder and co-managing director of Mercato Partners, and chairman of Marketstar. “Facing unprecedented growth, we need to ensure that the largest population of young people in the country will be deployed as the best educated workforce, propelling Utah to enduring prosperity.”

Prosperity 2020 and the business community, through school-business partnerships, can improve school environments and boost outcomes for students. In addition to advocacy, the Utah business community has developed partnerships that support our education system and improve outcomes. The guide highlights how businesses across the state are becoming directly involved in the educational success of Utah’s children through a myriad of partnerships, including tutoring students, volunteering in classrooms, sponsoring activities, advising programs of study, providing internships and funding scholarships.

“Utah’s business leaders understand the urgency of addressing our education challenges,” said Beattie. “As a strong backer of the Prosperity 2020 movement, we are very supportive of the priorities and commitment of the Legislature’s Education Taskforce and will work to make these policies a reality.”

Recent completions of major transportation initiatives have made Utah a national example in our commitment to disciplined planning and investment in transportation infrastructure. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, continued investments are critical to economic growth and accommodating future generations of Utahns.

“Our community continues to rapidly grow,” said H. David Burton, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition.  “We must act now to ensure future generations can enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life.”

The guide outlines support for a five-year action plan to fully fund Utah’s prioritized transportation needs identified in Utah’s 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. This action plan includes allowing local governments to address their urgent transportation challenges, investments to improve our transit system, and a call for the expansion and inflation-adjustment of user fees to meet critical needs.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure benefit every aspect of our economy,” said David Golden, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and executive vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group’s Mountain Division. “The need for investment is critical and requires immediate action in order to sustain and enhance our world-class business and economic climate.”

Natural Resource Business Council
Utah’s spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations and is a key component of the state’s economy and high quality of life. The guide is the debut of the Chamber’s Natural Resource Business Council, which represents a comprehensive approach to the state’s natural environment and important sectors of Utah’s economy. The Chamber’s clean air and energy and minerals task forces, as well as two new Chamber initiatives in Water and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, are organized under the Council.

“Utah’s natural resources provide Utah families with unparalleled life quality and economic opportunities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “We owe future generations our best stewardship efforts to ensure they enjoy the same advantages we now enjoy.”

The Natural Resource Business Council priorities include developing a long-term vision on Utah’s water needs, enhancing rural economic development, improving transportation options to Utah’s energy rich Uinta Basin, supporting Utah’s tourism marketing and addressing air quality issues.

Specifically, the guide highlights the Chamber’s support for: the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan, increased transportation funding to improve our transit system and reduce idling on Utah’s roadways, cleaner vehicles, increased efforts for public awareness and research, and incentives to facilitate small businesses’ participation in emission reductions.

“Air quality for many Utahns’ is the state’s most pressing issue,” said Beattie. “Clean air makes good business sense and the Utah business community is committed to being a champion for improving our air quality.”

The 2014 Public Policy guide is available online at www.slchamber.com/PPG2014.

Here are some photos from the event where we presented speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser: