The Wall Street Journal recently recognized Salt Lake as the best place for employment. In addition, the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities index placed Provo, Salt Lake City and Ogden on its Top 13 Large Cities list.
On May 25, the Salt Lake Chamber hosted the Utah Leads Together: Reporters Roundtable to discuss Utah’s recent economic success and upcoming challenges in light of the recent awards the state has received. The online event featured a panel moderated by Boyd Matheson and included Art Raymond, Jasen Lee, Holly Richardson and Ginger Chinn.
Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, prefaced the discussion with a brief introduction of the topic. He explained that the strength of Utah’s economy did not come out of nowhere.
“Whenever we see this recognition, it’s important to ask ourselves: ‘Why?’” Miller said.
KSL Inside Sources Host Boyd Matheson echoed Miller’s hesitation to immediately celebrate the attention.
“The most dangerous day in the life of an organization is the day they hit number one,” Matheson said. “Both as a state, and in our business community, we are getting very used to those accolades.”
Matheson began the discussion by inviting each of the panelists to comment on the state’s success and their concerns for its future.
Deseret News Business Reporter Jasen Lee first spoke of difficulties in the hospitality and food industries. He explained that getting people to go back to those businesses was proving to be complicated, as many customers have become accustomed to ordering out and staying at home.
“Until everything comes back, we can’t tout victory,” said Lee. “We want to be as strong as we were before the pandemic.”
Holly Richardson, Utah Policy editor, brought up concerns for women in the workforce. Citing a study by the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University led by Dr. Susan Madsen, she explained that low unemployment rates disproportionately affected communities of color and women.
“Women specifically have lost jobs at two times the rate as the men,” Richardson said, “And their recovery has been slower.”
The Salt Lake Chamber’s Vice President of Public Policy, Ginger Chinn, spoke of housing and employment problems from a policy standpoint. She explained that thousands of new jobs, especially from the tech and food industries, were popping up, but they weren’t being filled quickly enough. A primary reason for that is the lack of housing inventory on the Utah market. Potential employees cannot start new positions without affordable housing nearby.
“We have a crisis,” Chinn stated. “One, we don’t have houses for people to move to, and secondly, if we don’t have the workforce to fill these jobs, we have another problem.”
Art Raymond, Deseret News tech reporter, chimed in on the workplace and its evolution throughout the pandemic. As many businesses begin to reopen, he explained, their stances on remote and hybrid work must change.
“We’ve yet to get to the new workplace world,” Raymond said. “Hopefully, there will be a lot of positive changes.”
Throughout the event, Matheson asked each panelist their opinions and thoughts as they discussed the myriad of concerns that currently face Utah. He wrapped up the discussion by thanking each speaker and offering his final thoughts.
“The most transitory thing on the planet is success,” Matheson said. “Success as a state and as a business community is not about what was but about what’s next.”