As the state prepares to enter the 21st century, Utah may be a pretty state and it may be a good state, but it can't afford to be just a pretty good state.
That message was delivered recently at the annual meeting of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems by Don Gale, vice president for news and public affairs at Bonneville International Corp., owners of KSL-TV where Gale also writes and presents the station's daily editorial comment.The term "pretty good" carries a second-rate connotation, Gale said, and if Utah wants to be at the forefront of change and innovation, it must avoid a second-rate image.
Change and growth have been the hallmark in Utah over the past 25 years as the state has grown from a population of 900,000 to more than 1.7 million. Small towns exploded in size - Sandy going from 5,000 to more than 70,000 residents and St. George from 6,000 to more than 25,000 residents - and Salt Lake's downtown, virtually unchanged since the early '50s, underwent a major reworking.
"Today we have hundreds of new buildings, a dozen major hotels dot the downtown area, a massive freeway system is in place and the state's economy has grown from $3 billion to more than $25 billion," Gale noted.
"We've experienced tremendous, revolutionary changes these past 25 years," Gale continued, "and the next 25 years will probably bring even greater change."
Gale predicted that the state's population will surpass the 3 million mark, the average wage will reach $30,000 annually, and a majority of the work force will probably work from their homes, commuting into downtown offices just one or two days per week.
"The world has changed, Utah has changed, and both will continue to change," Gale said.
Gale also predicted that the Winter Olympics effort will bring many positive effects to the state and added it is crucial that government officials support expansion of Salt Palace facilities. He said fusion, too, will bring millions and billions of dollars into the state, even if it does not prove to be what it seems.
And, he said, Utah's leading birthrate in the nation will also prove a benefit, providing an excess of young and willing workers.
But to make Utah's future viable, Gale said the state must improve its education system, it must upgrade its infrastructure (roads, sewer systems, etc.) and it must make sure there is a plentiful supply of energy, especially electricity.
Gale said people must get over their fear of nuclear power and also support development of alternative sources that can be put on line in months instead of years.
"We must believe in the future as much as the pioneers believed in the future," Gale said. "They believed, they planned and worked for the future. We are the beneficiaries and we should do no less for those who will follow us."