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Salt Lake County hosting forum to expand local reach to global market

Salt Lake County is hosting a national meeting Wednesday for leaders from several national metro areas to strengthen local business' access to global markets.
Salt Lake County is hosting a national meeting Wednesday for leaders from several national metro areas to strengthen local business' access to global markets.
Chelsey Allder, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County is hosting a meeting Wednesday for leaders from several metropolitan areas to strengthen local businesses' access to global markets.

The county is one of eight municipalities selected to be part of the Global Cities Initiative, a five-year joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase to help business and civic leaders expand their economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness.

The initiative, in collaboration with the World Trade Center Utah, is launching outreach to local businesses with potential to expand their reach to a global market.

"We think we have a local expertise and strength, and we can help them tap into a global economy in a way that will create jobs and economic opportunity," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams told the Deseret News in an editorial board meeting Tuesday.

World Trade Center Utah Director Derek Miller, along with Marek Gootman and Amy Lui of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and JPMorgan Chase President Craig Zollinger joined McAdams to discuss the initiative.

After six months of collaboration and data collection, the project will continue with a public forum from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business to focus on the region's potential for global trade and investment.

About 200 regional business, civic and government leaders — together with international and U.S. counterparts — will convene to discuss how to leverage the strengths of the Salt Lake region in the global economy.

The event will feature an assessment of exporting activity in Salt Lake County, innovative practices from other U.S. and international regions, and a discussion on how private and public sector stakeholders can advance regional economic strategies.

McAdams said Salt Lake County, the 39th largest metro economy in the U.S., makes up 40 percent of the state's population and is responsible for about 70 percent of Utah's exports. However, 50 percent of the county's exports come from Kennecott Utah Copper, which shows the area has a weakness for diversity and potential to expand its exports, the mayor said.

"We are doing well, but when you take out mining, we are actually significantly underperforming," McAdams said. "We think we have incredible opportunity to grow."

The mayor said those industries with potential include the aerospace sector, medical research, technology, and outdoor recreation manufacturing.

Gootman said Portland, Oregon, one of the first regions to participate in the initiative, saw its export market double over five years. Leaders there realized they needed to diversify exports after recognizing two-thirds of the metro area's exports came from Intel's computer electronics, he said.

Sites that have already participated in the initiative include Atlanta, Chicago and Indianapolis, Gootman said. The other seven cities participating in the initiative with Salt Lake County include Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis and Fresno.

"There is untapped potential in exports," Gootman said. "The vast majority of sustained job creation comes from expanding existing businesses."

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1