Utah has been criticized in the past for exploiting workers through low wages, but when people realize that take-home pay goes further than many other states because the cost of living is lower, then working in Utah doesn't look so bad after all.
So said Stanley B. Parrish, Utah Department of Community and Economic Development executive director, during a recent information seminar sponsored by Video West.Parrish said that in an effort to determine if Utahns are actually getting short-changed because of wages being below the national average, the Utah Department of Employment Security did a study that shows that buying power in Salt Lake City is as good or greater than comparable cities in the western United States.
That's because the cost of living along the Wasatch Front is lower than many areas, and other factors such as quality of life make the area an attractive place to raise a family, he said.
Utah is making progress toward getting higher-paying jobs, Parrish said, because in the past two years the average household income in the state has increased from 89 to 91 percent of the national average. His department's blueprint for Utah's economic future has the goal of getting Utah's household income to the national average by 1995.
Many areas tout themselves for natural resources, but Utah is bragging about its human resources, Parrish said, something that is important to businesses looking to locate in Utah. "We create 25,000 new workers every year because of our high birth rate so we need plenty of new jobs to take care of them," he said.
He said there are many Utahns who are underemployed, but their work ethic shows they are willing to work for a smaller paycheck than receive a welfare check.
Another speaker was Lynn Blake, Utah Division of Business and Economic Development director, who said it is good to attract new business into the state, but it also is wise to keep existing businesses prospering.
He said the state is focusing its attention on attracting or helping existing aerospace, biomedical, information services and natural resource-related companies, and task forces have identified which companies exist. Blake said this gives companies the idea they can cooperate and sell items to each other.
Blake touched on recent legislation that created the Industrial Assistance Fund that can be used by any industry, but was created to help McDonnell Douglas bring equipment to Utah from its Long Beach, Calif., assembly plant.
Any loan from the $10 million fund is repaid by the company, which is spending money on subcontractors in connection with fuselage assembly of the MD-80 commercial airliner. Presently, McDonnell Douglas employees assemble floor sections and other items that are shipped to Long Beach for assembly in the fuselages.
Blake said the company will increase its work force in Salt Lake City, spend millions of dollars, and that the number of companies supplying items to the aircraft manufacturer will increase from 150 to 500 in the next few years.