Utah's businesses and the state's economy are "pointed in the right direction," but there is much to be done to successfully face the challenges of the future, Salt Lake Chamber officials said Thursday.
"It's a great day to be in business in Utah," Clark Ivory, the chamber's board chairman, said at the organization's annual meeting at the Grand America Hotel.
"Utah is prospering," Ivory said. "But the only way we will continue to prosper is if we invest in the right things going forward: infrastructure. Technology. In our businesses — in helping our existing businesses grow and develop."
In the next five years, Utah's population will swell by 305,000, chamber President Lane Beattie said, which is the equivalent of adding the combined populations of Davis and Summit counties. That kind of growth will put pressure on education and roads and other key infrastructure components, he said.
In that time, Beattie said there also likely will be economic growth, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints starts its billion-dollar redevelopment project in downtown Salt Lake City and several other projects get under way.
Facing such a future, Beattie outlined key issues the chamber will champion going forward. Among them, he pointed to education, transportation needs and downtown revitalization.
"Science and technology and research are the seed corn of our economic future," Beattie said. "We can pay now, or we can pay a dear price later. It's time to simply step up and get the job done.
"It is no longer the case that we are concerned with competing. We are concerned with losing. Every state is stepping up to the table in economic research and development. They're looking at our professors and our researchers and our students to take out of the state of Utah. We have
got to compete."
Regarding transportation, Beattie said, "We cannot continue to rely just on the Legislature." Business leaders must step forward to contribute ideas and suggestions to lawmakers, to give the Legislature the backing it needs to fund infrastructure.
"Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy," Beattie said. "If we get behind on this curve and end up in gridlock, we will never make it up."
Finally, Beattie said the chamber will throw its shoulder into downtown redevelopment.
"More than $2 billion will be invested downtown in the next five years," he said. "More money will be invested in our city than in any city in America, and it's not just from one source."
Utah's future does bud with promise, Beattie said. But, he warned, there is much to be done to bring the bud to blossom.
"I have long held the philosophy that the future is not a gift, but an achievement," he said. "We achieve the future of our choosing based on our actions today."