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Leaders share concerns, ideas at Provo conference

The day was filled with both warning and cautious optimism for those attending the 12th Annual Utah Valley Leadership Conference.

- A Republican congressman warned the audience of some presidential practices that should outrage the American public.- An informational technologies expert said Utah's workforce can't keep up with the demand for high-tech and highly paid employees.

- A Utah County commissioner said the chances look better than ever for an Olympic venue to come to town.

- And a state legislator said senators and representatives were led to believe road closures on I-15 would not be simultaneous.

The all-day event at the Provo Park Hotel brought together officials and spokesmen from various aspects of local community life to exchange information. It was sponsored by the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Cannon, R-Utah, was the congressman who said he's amazed the American public is allowing activities that he finds shocking to go uncensured. Cannon said the Clinton administration is under judicial review and the hearings are producing information that is "outrageous."

Cannon's concerns included a recent program that gave some 1 million immigrants citizenship. He called it a process to put a million Democratic votes onto the streets. Cannon also suggested politics will be a major player in funding for the American Heritage Rivers program.

Peter Generaux, president of Utah Information Technologies Association, said 70,000 Utahns already work in the information technology industry at an average wage of $40,000 annually. He said the industry is the largest in the state.

"Utah is doing extremely well," he said. "But we need more qualified personnel. We're at a crisis point. It's a very significant industry issue."

Generaux also warned company executives to run a test of their complete computer systems. "Now's the time to find out how significant a problem the year 2000 may be for your company," he said. "You'll probably find it to be a much bigger problem than you imagine."

Generaux said companies that supply computer software and hardware may see a reduction in sales as companies shift their financial resources to dealing with the year 2000 problems.

Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert, a Republican, said Utah County's chances of getting the ice hockey games into Utah Valley State College's David O. McKay Center are at about 80 percent so far. "I believe we'll have ice hockey for the 2002 Winter Games," he said.

And state legislator John Valentine, R-Orem, said state officials are a little miffed at the simultaneous closures on the interstate. "This will be discussed in the next session because this is not what we were led to believe would happen," said Valentine.

Valentine said the roadwork is ahead of schedule by four months and it may be partly due to the number of closures.

He listed Utah Valley's greatest road needs as the interchange at 1300 South (University Parkway) and to the west side of Utah Lake. He said the Lindon/Pleasant Grove off-ramp has been pushed ahead onto the state's five-year implementation plan but could get bumped again in favor of paying unexpected costs on the I-15 repairs.

He said Orem's half finished State Street repairs "got caught in transition," noting said interstate roads are getting priority funding over roads that serve a single community.

In addition, speakers at the conference said the average home in Utah Valley currently sells for $130,000 and there's beginning to be a glut of high-priced luxury homes available.

R.J. Snow, Brigham Young University's advancement vice president, said the university is raising its enrollment cap by 500 students each year over the next four years and expects to build a new $22 million indoor practice athletic facility on a site west of the current football practice fields.

He said BYU has no intention of backing away from its mission statement in the wake of concerns over academic freedom on campus. "We don't in any way intend to change our direction or focus," he said.

Ron Clark, president of the Freedom Festival Committee, said new events planned for 1998 will produce a nationally acclaimed celebration that eventually could expand to events outside of Provo.

He introduced the Freedom Festival Prayer Breakfast concept, intended to create friendships and break down artificial barriers between religious groups.

Utah County Sheriff David Bateman said the rapidly rising occupancy of the new Utah County Security Center in Spanish Fork signals that it's time to begin planning for the second phase of building adequate jail facilities.

Other speakers included the mayors of Orem and Provo, Lin-don Mayor Larry Ellertson, an update on plans to create a Healthy Utah Valley organization, Utah Valley State College officials, business leaders, retailers and spokesmen from the real estate community.