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Derek Miller: Collaboration is a powerful tool in overcoming contention

A "Turn Your Key Be Idle Free" sign is displayed at a TRAX parking lot in Sandy on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.
A "Turn Your Key Be Idle Free" sign is displayed at a TRAX parking lot in Sandy on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As 2020 presidential campaigning ramps up, a contrasting view comes into focus between candidates who see business and the private sector as part of a problem or a source for solution. Conflict between government and business is not new and often creates a healthy tension, but the current rhetoric on a national level seems more divisive as business is held up as a scapegoat rather than a partner for collaboration and problem-solving.

Gratefully, Utah stands in contrast to this rising contention between the public and private sectors. Collaboration is part of Utah’s founding, part of our current community building, part of our heritage and part of our DNA. Time spent fighting is time wasted. Collaboration allows us to put our collective energy into problem-solving rather than conflict and contention. This is how we face and overcome significant community challenges.

It is no surprise, and no coincidence, that collaboration between the public and private sectors in Utah has resulted in the fastest-growing economy in the nation going on three years. Equally important is that Utah has the highest rate of upward mobility so the economic growth in our state isn’t a system of winners and losers.

The results have been remarkable, but even success brings its own challenges. Lucky for us, our challenges are related to growth. They are good problems to have, but they are problems nonetheless.

Those challenges include things like skyrocketing housing prices, strain on transportation infrastructure, increasing demand for educated and trained workforce, eroding and shifting tax base, growing need to focus on diversity and inclusion, and an imperative to do all this in a way that demonstrates social responsibility and environmental sensitivity.

I’m proud to say the Utah business community is taking an active leadership role in each of these areas. With housing cost studies, the gender wage gap best practice toolkit, distance learning efforts to provide skills training, promoting the voice of business in the legislature’s tax reform efforts, corporate participation in the Clear the Air Challenge and other social good initiatives like behavior health in the workplace.

Although we should be grateful to live and work in Utah, we cannot take this island of tranquility for granted. The sad truth is we see contention and fighting creeping into our communities. We see increased efforts to disrupt and obstruct rather than working together for the common good. When uncivil tactics seek to shut down public discussion and insert fear over fact, we all lose.

Differences of opinion can be productive when we work together and find solutions that are better than what one side can come up with on its own. This is how government and business should work. This is how our communities progress and improve. In Utah, we call this collaboration our “secret sauce” and it is up to us to make sure it doesn’t spoil.

In addition to the 2020 presidential election, Utah has its own important elections on the horizon, including selecting a new mayor for the capital city and a new governor. Voters would be wise to identify and support candidates who will govern in a spirit of collaboration rather than a spirit of contention.

While some may be preparing for battle, people of goodwill from all sides of our most pressing challenges can double down on collaboration. Overcoming these challenges, whether they be at a state level with workforce development and tax reform or a community level with increasing vagrancy and diminishing public safety, will require best efforts from us all.