Utah’s economy is in an enviable spot right now. Silicon Slopes is rising and the “Wall Street of the West” continues to expand. Our state is fast becoming a technology and advanced-manufacturing hub, with a dynamic capital city and an increasingly diversified economy. Opportunities abound for economic expansion and key to that has been the steady hand of business leadership.
Utah’s job growth ranks among the top states in the country, unemployment is at a seven-year low and businesses have added more than 200,000 jobs since the Great Recession. Throughout the country we are lauded as the “best state for business.” Our unparalleled quality of life and presence as a growing national and global business destination affirm the opportunities that our state provides as the best place to live, work, learn and play.
Our success is no accident. Utah’s business leaders and political officials have made purposeful decisions and demonstrated economic leadership. Our culture of collaboration and consensus building has been vital in addressing the challenges of an increasingly competitive global economy. Again and again we have seen Utah leaders find common ground on divisive issues like immigration reform, nondiscrimination laws and common-sense reforms to regulations.
At a time of economic prosperity, there is a temptation to grow complacent. Will we be able to pass on our legacy of collaboration, quality of life and prosperity to our children and grandchildren? True economic strength will continue for generations if we make good decisions. Business leaders know that investing in our future during good times will lead to economic prosperity when we are again buffeted by the winds of economic slowdown.
Representing the business community, we implore legislators to consider the long-term implications of their decisions during this session.
Utah is now at a crossroads. Ensuring our future success will require tapping the hallmarks of our current boom, making the right investments to secure our economic future as a state.
Among our most pressing challenges: meeting employers’ workforce needs; mounting pressures on our existing business climate; and important decisions on core capital investments. We must also modernize our tax structure, make strategic investments in future employees, improve our air quality, find better ways of serving our homeless population and ensure that we make informed decisions to address our water future.
The path we choose to take in addressing these challenges and opportunities will either stall or accelerate Utah’s current momentum. We are committed to being a part of the solution, to building consensus and finding common ground. As Utah’s business leader, the Salt Lake Chamber believes this is the time to build on our state’s industrious workforce, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative talents.
This week we present our agenda for 2016 to civic and elected leaders, including Gov. Gary Herbert, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Speaker of the House Greg Hughes. This is a guide for all members of the Utah Legislature that underscores our priorities for the upcoming session.
The 2016 Public Policy Guide outlines some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing our economy and shares our recommendations to address them. We continue to believe that a purposeful, engaged and active business community plays a vital role in Utah’s future. This principled-based agenda places free enterprise and disciplined planning and investment at the core of the key issues that the Utah Legislature will consider in the coming year.
The decisions we make now will have a lasting, positive impact for future generations. This is truly an inflection point — a crossroads — for our future. While the nation and globe brace for uncertainty, risks and partisan rhetoric, we invite Utah’s elected officials to continue to focus on the issues of greatest significance in order to unleash Utah’s full economic potential and ensure prosperity for future generations.
Lane Beattie is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.