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.”

Transportation
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:

Gov. Gary Herbert’s budget hits the mark

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by Natalie Gochnour, associate dean for the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber, for the Deseret News. It was originally published Dec. 6, 2013. 

This week Gov. Gary Herbert released his fiscal year 2015 budget. He recommended $13.3 billion in spending – a cool $36 million a day to pay for Utah’s education system, transportation network, human services, public safety and other important public functions. I worked in the state budget office for 18 years, and I think the governor got it right. Here’s my take on state finances:

Fiscal fitness – Every year the governor and Legislature deliver a carefully crafted, fiscally conservative and economically smart budget. They balance revenues and expenses, keep spending under control, and bond only when prudent to do so. Our credit worthiness is the best in the business; nobody borrows more cheaply than the state of Utah. And our governor has line-item veto authority as a check on spending. When it comes to fiscal responsibility, it doesn’t get any better than Utah.

Education funding – Gov. Herbert made it no secret that education is his top priority. I was pleased to see in the news coverage that House Speaker Becky Lockhart agrees. Utah has reached a tipping point in education funding. Our commitment to public education (education revenues per $1,000 of personal income) has fallen from seventh among states in 1995 to 29th in 2010. It’s time to reverse this trend. Herbert’s budget is a step in the right direction.

No new general taxes – Gov. Herbert has always made the Utah economy his focus and has lots to show for his leadership. His string of economic development successes is without peer. The governor also consistently has held the line on taxes, a stance most of his legislative colleagues also support. Utah still has 60,000 unemployed people and arguably a similar amount of workers who have dropped out of the labor force. For this reason I support the governor and Legislature for their no new tax stance, with one important exception.

Raise the motor fuel tax – The motor fuel tax needs to be raised to make up for lost purchasing power from inflation. In inflation-adjusted terms the tax per gallon has dropped from 24.5 cents in 1997 to 17.1 cents today. As a consequence, state policy makers take money from other important state needs to pay for needed investment in Utah’s transportation system. We need the transportation investment, but highway users should pay more. It’s time to raise Utah’s motor fuel tax to make up for lost revenue. While the governor did not propose this, I’d like to see the Legislature consider it.

Earmarks – Revenue earmarks have become a dangerous trend, a point highlighted in the governor’s budget recommendations. When I left state government in 2003 sales tax earmarks were less than $50 million. Today they are over $500 million. I have a philosophical problem with earmarks. I call them “intravenous funds” because they go to their intended use without being vetted in the marketplace of priorities. Budget conditions change year to year and I think it’s better to give elected officials more flexibility in meeting state needs.

Debt – This is my biggest concern with Utah’s current budget. Per capita debt in Utah tripled between 2008 and 2012, rising from $445 in general obligation debt to $1,283. Don’t get me wrong, this rapid increase occurred for a really important reason. We re-built I-15 in Utah County, which is critical to our long-term economic growth. And it could not have happened at a better time – the economy needed the jobs and interest rates were low. But it’s time to pay down this debt. Our target should be to bring the debt to the $600 per person range over the next five years. Gov. Herbert wisely chose to pay cash for state capital projects in this year’s budget, a point that Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser agreed with in his public commentary.

Gov. Herbert has provided a useful framework for the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty. The partnership between the executive and legislative branch works. The governor proposes; the Legislature disposes. Utah is well positioned for the future. We have our good governor to thank for setting the framework. It’s now the Legislature’s task to get the job done.

 

Transportation investment key to economic growth

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber has a long history of supporting the Utah economy by championing transportation investment. We supported Prop. 3 that funded the expansion of mass transit and road along the Wasatch Front and eventually became 70 miles of new rail line that was completed two years ahead of schedule and more than $300 million under budget.

Today, the Chamber, through the Utah Transportation Coalition, is leading the charge to fully fund the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. Utah is already on pace to invest some $43 billion in roads, rails and trails over the next 30 years, but maximizing our return on that investment will require investing an additional $11 billion. You can see the study here.

Recently, the U.S. Chamber produced a video to help better understand the importance of investment in our transportation infrastructure.

The Power of Courage

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

A few months ago, my 10-year-old son asked me if I knew anyone truly courageous. I had to pause. In a culture consumed with a twerking Miley Cyrus, Norwegians singing about foxes, government shutdowns and other ridiculous behaviors, courage isn’t an everyday occurrence.

So it took me a while to think of someone I considered truly courageous.  And then I remembered Utah Sen. Curt Bramble.

Sen. Bramble isn’t a close friend—we’ve only met a couple of times. But I like him because you always know where he stands.  A few years ago, he took on powerful political forces in his party and backyard on the emotional and complicated issue of immigration reform.  He stood side by side with Sen. Luz Robles and others pushing for reform and said, “This is what I believe and this is where I stand. I am willing to accept the consequences of doing what I think is right.”

At the time, party activists told him that his political career was over.  They promised to oust him in Utah’s caucus system. The proposals he championed were commonsense laws, supported by the business community and religious leaders. The threats were real but Bramble didn’t back down. In fact, threats only made him more determined. By showing courage in the face of threatened political defeat, he went on to be vindicated in the 2012 caucuses and election.

Every day, ordinary people do remarkable and courageous things.  In many ways, these simple acts of courage or defiance help to move our society forward.  As Malcolm Gladwell says in his new book, David and Goliath: “Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.”

Now the issue of immigration reform has moved from the state legislature to the federal level—where it should have been all along.  And after nearly three decades, Congress is finally poised to fix America’s broken immigration system.  Now is the time for our national leaders to display the same kind of courage Sen. Bramble displayed.

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit with several members of Utah’s congressional delegation. I was part of a national group of 600 business, religious and law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., to push for a comprehensive solution to immigration reform. The 13-member Utah delegation included representatives from law enforcement, manufacturing, hospitality, agriculture, construction and high tech industries.

I was impressed with the depth of knowledge our House members displayed on the issue. They understand the debilitating impact our broken immigration system has on Utah businesses and families. This year in the Beehive State, crops went un-harvested, fruit rotted on trees, we turned away some of he world’s best and brightest graduates and with hundreds of engineering jobs that can’t be filled by U.S. citizens. Nobody in our meetings wanted amnesty, but we all expressed the same concerns. The current situation is untenable and now is the time for Congress to act.

Utah’s congressional leaders have the capacity to show enormous courage and leadership on this issue as they work to find solutions instead of the classic Washington excuses for another year of inaction. Here’s what house members can do:

First Congressional District
Rep. Rob Bishop can play a unique leadership role. After six terms in congress he has the seniority, stature and relationships to make a real difference. He is respected by congressional leadership and is seen as a consensus builder and statesman. He has an important role to play in solving this seemingly intractable problem.  His lifetime of public service, as a schoolteacher, state legislator and member of Congress gives him a remarkable depth of perspective and understanding.

Second Congressional District
You don’t get the MacKay Trophy or break the world record for fastest nonstop flight a round the world without courage.  Rep. Chris Stewart has written eloquently about our country’s destiny during difficult times in the past.  Now providence has given him an opportunity to show leadership, courage and determination in forging a path forward on immigration reform.

Third Congressional District
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is one of the most effective communicators in Congress today. He has already shown great leadership on this issue by co-sponsoring several bills to deal with immigration reform, including HR 1417, HR 2131, HR 2278, HR 1772 and HR 1773. I appreciate what he has already done for individual immigrants trying to work in the confines of a broken system, and ask him to do even more to lead out and fix the system in an inclusive way.

Fourth Congressional District
It takes courage and deft negotiation skills to run successfully time and again as a Democrat in deeply red Utah. Rep. Jim Matheson is seen as a reasonable and moderate leader by legislators on both sides of the aisle. By championing reform, he would again rise above the partisan bickering that engulfs our nation’s capital to find a commonsense, thoughtful solution to this issue as he has on so many others.

Three years ago, Utah’s faith community stood with business leaders and political officials to sign The Utah Compact, a declaration of five principles to guide Utah’s immigration policy discussions.  The first principle of the Compact states:

Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders.

Now is the time for our congressional delegation to lead, through courage and a sense of urgency to find solutions that protect our borders, improve our economy, keep families together and reinforce our values as a free society.

This post was authored by Jason Mathis, executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber. 

Building Utah’s broadband network

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Earlier this year, Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” became a worldwide brand when Internet giant Google announced Google Fiber in Provo. Google is known throughout the world for its Internet search engine, business applications and many other products. However, the company’s decision to invest millions of dollars in Provo’s existing broadband network boiled down to one point: broadband and high-speed Internet are critical to the global competitiveness of any economy.

“From rivers and ports, to our modern freeway system or electricity, businesses have relied on a variety of infrastructures over time to stay competitive,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Broadband is today’s infrastructure to support globally competitive businesses.”

Before Google’s investment, companies such as CenturyLink, Comcast, Xmission and other providers in the state have pushed Utah into the upper-echelon of both access and speed for broadband.

“Utah has an extensive broadband network that, in addition to low energy prices and an educated workforce, is helping to attract businesses to the state,” said Kelleigh Cole, manager of the Utah Broadband Project. “The Utah Broadband Project works with communities, providers and users to leverage what is already the fastest Internet in the West to further grow Utah’s economy.”

This focus has led to an elaborate mapping effort by the Utah Broadband Project to act as clearinghouse for identifying challenges to further development of the state’s broadband infrastructure. The Utah Broadband Project is also developing a statewide broadband plan that will ensure Utah remains on the cutting edge of this vital technology infrastructure.

“Along the Wasatch Front, businesses have a variety of choices for their broadband services,” said Cole. “What most people don’t realize is that in Utah, many rural communities are highly connected, allowing businesses in all parts of the state the ability to compete in a global market place.”

As the Utah Broadband Project works to strengthen Utah’s economy and ensure businesses stay globally competitive, the project is planning the 2013 Utah Broadband Summit on October 24th in Provo. The Summit will feature workshops to help community planners, economic developers, government officials, business leaders, educators, and other stakeholders learn strategies to improve broadband access and technology usage.

For more information about the summit and to register visit: http://broadband.utah.gov/about/events/2013summit/

State grant to help fill needs in workforce

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Utah business leaders know just how essential skilled workers are to the long-term strength of our state economy. They’ve come together to support the Prosperity 2020 movement in an effort to encourage more students to earn college degrees, particularly in the high-demand, high-compensation STEM jobs (those that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Today, the Utah Department of Workforce Services announced a new grant program to spur workforce alignment and economic growth, specifically in technology, manufacturing and health care.

Here’s the news release from DWS:

$1 million to fund Higher Ed Programs in High Demand

SALT LAKE CITY—Utah students and business owners with a focus on technology, manufacturing or healthcare will soon reap the benefits of a newly approved grant program that funds training for students in highly sought-after fields. $1 million was approved Tuesday to expand or create programs at higher educational institutions throughout the state. These programs range from IT, energy research and medical assisting to advanced machining and manufacturing .

“Business owners throughout Utah are clamoring for skilled workers, and this program helps train students in these growing fields,” said DWS Executive Director Jon Pierpont. “This newly approved grant money will fund vital high-tech learning programs that our students want and our businesses need.”

The grants are part of the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership project, known as UCAP, which was created to better align industry workforce needs with education programs. It is a partnership between the Department of Workforce Services, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Utah System of Higher Education. The money goes to expand or create programs in information technology, healthcare, energy and manufacturing, among others.

“As our state economy grows businesses are counting on the state to have a partnership in place that will train the workforce of tomorrow, “said Spencer Eccles, GOED executive director. “Today’s students need training that will insure our businesses have a workforce with the right skill sets and the UCAP program helps to meet that need.”

“Investing in education today builds the foundation for a strong economy tomorrow,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler. “We’re pleased to implement these programs and expansions to support Utah’s economic engine.”

The money comes from the Unemployment Insurance Job Growth Fund, and is available for programs to immediately access. For more information on the programs approved, see the attached summary.

This week on the Utah Business Report

Friday, October 11th, 2013

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

We’d like to congratulate Henry Walker Homes for being selected as one of the “Emerging Eight” fastest growing companies in the Utah Business 2013 Fast 50 awards. The home builder was honored for its entrepreneurial spirit, innovative business tactics and impressive revenue growth.

The Utah Business Fast 50 program highlights 50 rapid growth companies based in Utah who reported consistent revenue progression over the past five years. The Emerging Eight category consists of businesses that are less than five years old with exceptional revenue performance and high growth potential.

Henry Walker Homes is one of the fastest growing home builders in the Intermountain West. Founded in October 2009, the company has grown to 79 employees and 29 sales consultants, and presently has over 2,800 lots in Colorado and Utah.

Collectively the principals of Henry Walker Homes have been in the home building industry for over 30 years and are instrumental in the construction of thousands of homes.

Business leaders care about the education of our youth. That’s why they joined together to form the Prosperity 2020 movement. With a solid education, our students will be better equipped for a prosperous future… and also for the jobs of tomorrow.

Many high-paying jobs will require skills based in science, technology, engineering and math. So these topics are crucial things for today’s students to learn and be involved in.

To help, a new after-school activity and learning center is open—and its goal is to be an active, inspiring place where math and technology learning is fun.

The new Zaniac learning facility is located in Sugar House at 10th east and 21st south. It will offer several programs such as Zane Math, LEGO Robotics, Minecraft Exploration, touch typing and chess instruction.

Learn more about increasing innovation, accountability and investment in education, visit Prosperity2020.com.

The Utah Educational Savings Plan continues to be ranked among the top five performing 529 plans in the country in the ten-, five-, three- and one-year categories.

SavingForCollege.com ranks Utah’s Plan as second in both ten- and five-year performance out of the 52 plans analyzed.

Utah Educational Savings Plan is an innovator and a low-cost leader in the 529 industry, consistently ranking among the nation’s top 529 plans by organizations like Morningstar, Inc., Money magazine, CBS MoneyWatch, and consumer expert and talk radio host, Clark Howard.

With a user-friendly website, UESP makes it easy to open, manage, and contribute to an account online. No minimum deposit or balance is required to open an account, so families can save a little or a lot, according to their schedules. There is also a variety of investment options along with low fees. Learn more at uesp.org.

The Utah Film Commission wants you to produce and direct its next promotional commercial. This is a great opportunity for local filmmakers to have their work seen by thousands of people, including film industry professionals, during the Sundance Film Festival.

Contestants can submit a campaign or individual commercials promoting Utah as a great place to make motion pictures. Up to eight 30-second commercials will be chosen to represent the Utah Film Commission during the Sundance Film Festival on local broadcast television.

The winners will receive $1,500, a Sundance Film Festival package, official Utah Film Commission gear, as well as free entry into a drawing to win a GoPro camera.

The contest is free and open to all Utah residents and students attending school in Utah. You can find more information at film.utah.gov.

Vivint Solar, a leading full-service residential solar integrator, recently introduced Greg Butterfield as the company’s new Chief Executive Officer.

Butterfield has more than 25 years of executive-level experience in the software and network system management industries, most notably as president and CEO of Altiris. During his tenure at Altiris, Butterfield led the company to eight consecutive years of revenue growth and profitability. Butterfield has also held executive positions at Symantec Corporation, Vinca Corporation, Novell, and WordPerfect.

Founder and CEO of Vivint Inc. Todd Pedersen says this is a critical expansion period for Vivint Solar, a time when Butterfield’s record of consistent, annual revenue growth will help the company widen customer reach, as well as develop their technology and team.

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 just feature it on the Utah Business Report.

Chamber applauds deal to open national parks, monuments

Friday, October 11th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber applauds Gov. Gary R. Herbert and other state lawmakers for their completion of a deal to utilize state funds to open Utah’s five national parks and three national monuments, closed as a result of the federal government shutdown. The governor’s ability to craft a compromise with the federal government demonstrates the value of elected officials working with business to strengthen the economy, and will pay off for thousands of Utahns who work to support Utah’s tourism industry.

The tourism industry is a significant part of Utah’s economy accounting for nearly 130,000 jobs and $7.4 billion in economic activity as we welcomed 6.6 million visitors to our national parks in 2012-13. The governor’s leadership in collaborating with the Department of the Interior will pay off for the many businesses and employees in the areas surrounding our national parks that rely on visitors to our state, particularly as we head into an important portion of the tourism season.

Utah’s history of prudent fiscal management and our growing economy have provided the flexibility to keep this important part of our state economy open for business. We encourage the members of our federal delegation to work to end the government shutdown, and urge them to begin working to reimburse the state for the funds utilized to open the parks.

Transportation investment could add 183,000 jobs to Utah’s economy

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was written by Gaylen Webb for EDCUtah and appeared in the Utah Pulse on Oct. 8, 2013. 

A recent study by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston shows Utah could nearly double its return of investment on the state’s transportation infrastructure by 2040. Simply put: for every dollar spent on transportation infrastructure, the state could turn around an ROI of $1.94.

“Anytime you can trade someone $1 for $1.94, you make that trade,” says Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lane Beattie.

According to the study, which can be read here, if state and local governments and transportation agencies fully implement Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan 2011-2040, the result will be a dramatic and positive economic impact over the next three decades. In fact, if the Unified Transportation plan is fully funded, the state would see a return on investment of nearly 183,000 new jobs created in Utah by 2040. Those would include 55,000 construction jobs and more than 91,000 other jobs created by improvements in transportation performance. Another 17,000 jobs would be created by enhanced access to markets for Utah firms, and more than 19,000 jobs would be added by new businesses attracted to Utah because of improved transportation conditions.

“If you look at the sheer numbers, the outcome is pretty impressive,” says Marty Carpenter, executive vice president of communication at the Salt Lake Chamber. The study projects the state would experience:

  • $130.5 billion in additional household income
  • $183.6 billion in additional gross domestic product
  • $22 billion in additional tax revenues from economic growth

As Beattie points out, Utah would receive an estimated return on investment of $1.94 in non-construction GDP gain per $1 invested in transportation infrastructure. That is based on the analysis of private sector transportation costs that can be saved if the Unified Transportation Plan is implemented as envisioned. The comprehensive plan, which can be read here, has four strategic goals: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety and strengthen the economy.

“The Utah Unified Transportation Plan is really quite detailed,” says Carpenter. “It covers everything from smaller roads, bike paths and big rail projects–all of the things we should look at doing in order to have the transportation infrastructure that will support the population growth we can expect.”

The Economic Development Research Group’s study was commissioned by the Utah Transportation Coalition, a group started by the Salt Lake Chamber in 2012 to bring transportation stakeholders together with businesses that recognize the impact transportation infrastructure will have on their long-term ability to succeed. Carpenter says the coalition is working with elected officials, stakeholders and other businesses to help them understand there is a gap between the funds the state has committed for transportation infrastructure, recognize what is needed to fully fund the Unified Transportation Plan and to help them find ways to close the gap.

Utah currently has about $43 billion committed toward transportation infrastructure between now and 2040, when the Unified Transportation Plan would be finished. But, he says, a total of $54.7 billion is needed to create a transportation system that will allow Utah’s economy to reach its full potential.

“Our current funding leaves us a shortfall of $11.3 billion–the gap between what we need to have to maximize our return on investment and what we actually have planned,” he explains. “Based upon the study, if we can come up with that additional $11.3 billion, we get an extra 182,000-plus jobs created by 2040. Seventy percent of those jobs are attributable to improved transportation performance, while 30 percent are from construction spending.”

This isn’t the first time the Salt Lake Chamber has taken an active role in pushing for funds to improve Utah’s transportation infrastructure. The Chamber played a critical role in the passage of Proposition 3 in 2006, which accelerated the construction of the Mountain View Corridor and helped fund five TRAX light rail projects in Salt Lake County and the FrontRunner commuter rail project from the Intermodal Hub in Salt Lake into Utah County.

“As a business association, we recognize that the long-term economic strength of our state depends on our ability to maintain and continue to build a strong transportation infrastructure, particularly because we know our population is going to double in the next 30 years,” says Carpenter. “With that knowledge comes the responsibility to speak today about what the congestion could look like and what we can do about it. We must work today to make sure gridlock doesn’t happen.”

Utah is currently in a great position, he adds, because the state has invested well over the past decade and is ahead of the curve on transportation. Over the past 10 years strong partnerships have been forged, along with a strong understanding of the importance of transportation infrastructure. Nonetheless, without adequately funding the Unified Transportation Plan, Utahns can expect increased transportation stress and continued air quality problems as the population grows to an anticipated 3 million people along the Wasatch Front over the next three decades.

While adding more roads is only part of the transportation plan, Carpenter says it would be non sequitur for some people to connect additional roads with improved air quality. “You are going to have people in cars regardless,” he says. “Giving them more transportation options is essential, but so is keeping them from sitting in congestion. Cars sitting on over-crowded roads are still burning fuel and putting emissions in the air. If we keep cars and trucks moving as efficiently as possible, it saves commuters and businesses money and reduces the amount of emissions they put in the air.”

Carpenter says federal funding is declining as they work toward the $11.3 billion shortfall in transportation investment, but the study lays out a variety of alternative concepts. The Transportation Coalition, he notes, hasn’t settled on one particular mechanism. “We are more interested in showing the Legislature a number of options they have and to give our best counsel as to what those options will entail,” he says. “Ultimately, I am sure as that field of options narrows we’ll take a position, but at this point that is preliminary. It is more important to help lawmakers understand the issues we face, see what their options are, and present them with good information about the path forward.”