Start making your 2020 New Year’s plans early. It is going to be a banner year for Utah — moving the state prison and corollary expansion of Silicon Slopes, opening the new Salt Lake City International Airport and (fingers crossed) breaking ground for the Utah Global Trade Port. One of these projects alone would be significant for any state, but three at the same time is truly a trifecta.
Expanding the international airport is the largest capital project in the state’s history and magnifies Utah external connections on scale with driving the golden spike and building the interstate freeway system. The new airport also confirms Delta Air Lines’ commitment to Utah as a hub far into the future. The significance cannot be overstated. There is a reason Utah business travelers get to Mexico, Canada and the European Union directly and quickly. And there is a reason these locations are Utah’s top export destinations.
To put the expansion into context, the current airport is built to accommodate just over 10 million passengers, while the new airport will accommodate nearly 25 million. The airport director estimates this will be the only new airport hub built in the U.S. in the 21st century. Building a project of this size and scope without local taxpayer dollars is remarkable.
The vision to relocate the state prison was set by Gov. Gary Herbert in his State of the State address back in 2013. After years of due diligence, the new prison is now under construction. Besides being a significant development project on its own, the economic power of the prison relocation is opening 700 acres at the heart of Utah’s Silicon Slopes. What the state does with its property will be a catalyst for the surrounding thousands of acres. Imagine, for example, how a Brigham Young University/Utah Valley University/University of Utah tech commercialization facility could amplify our growing IT industry.
The Point of the Mountain Commission, led by Chris Conabee, former deputy director at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Rep. Lowry Snow, has undertaken the herculean task of constructing a regional development strategy for this area. The commission recognizes this is a once-in-a-lifetime project and, if we don’t get things right, like transportation, business growth and environmental protection, there won’t be a second chance.
Speaking of vision for the future, the third project in the Utah 2020 trifecta is the inland port. While recent news coverage has focused attention on the disagreement between Salt Lake City and the Utah Legislature on the political issue of governance, all sides agree on the substantive issue that an inland port would be great for our capital city and state.
Utah already benefits from its positioning as an intermodal hub, given out air, rail and freeway access. It’s the reason Amazon and UPS are building distribution facilities in this area, joining companies like Walmart, Backcountry and Sephora. The extraordinary value of Utah becoming the center of global trade for the Western United States is the ability to attract companies in logistics, containerization, customs and manufacturing, with job creation estimates of 60,000. The inland port is a general opportunity with a 10-year timeline and a hundred-year impact.
Utah has been the crossroads of the West since settlement. With the expansion of the state’s international airport, the continued rise of Silicon Slopes and a global trade port, Utah will find itself in 2020 positioned to become a crossroads of the world.