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When it comes to airports, Salt Lake International is decidedly in the big leagues.

That much should be clear from the explosive growth that has been taking place at the Utah facility - growth that can be expected to continue for many years to come.If Salt Lake International is to remain in the big leagues, it had better be able to attract and retain top talent to run the airport - which means paying competitive salaries.

That much should be clear from the news that Louis E. Miller is stepping down after more than 13 years as director of Salt Lake International in return for a much bigger salary at the much smaller airport at Tampa, Fla.

The magnitude of this loss to Utah can be seen from the impressive gains by Salt Lake International during the outstanding tenure of Miller, who started there as an auditor and whose solid managerial skills became evident during a nation-wide search to fill the director's post.

Under Miller, Salt Lake International became in 1994 the 24th largest airport in the nation and the 47th largest in the world. Since 1990, the number of passengers who travel through Salt Lake International has increased from 12 million a year to around 19 million.

The growth in such numbers has been accompanied by a growth in the quality of service. Only last September, J.D. Power and Associates, a California-based research and marketing firm, rated Salt Lake International as the nation's best large, domestic airport for airline travelers. The rating was based on check-in/post-flight services, on-time performance, and gate location - all factors related to customer satisfaction.

With Miller's impending departure, the challenge now is to build upon this foundation of accomplishment. It's a challenge that simply must be met if Utah's economy is to continue its strong growth and if Salt Lake City is to vigorously fill its role as the geographical crossroads of the West.

Meanwhile, the Deseret News is proud to join Miller's many friends and associates in thanking him for his solid contribution to making Utah a good place to live and wishing him success in his new responsibilities in Florida.