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Utah Leads Together 4.0 is a vision for economic renewal

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Gov. Gary Herbert holds a copy of the current Utah Leads Together guidelines for health and economic recovery during a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Next week, Utah’s Republicans will select their nominee for governor. Conventional wisdom holds the Republican candidate will go on to win the November general election. Under normal circumstances, Utahns would be concerned about a variety of policy issues in casting their votes, but we are living in a time that is anything but normal. Now Utahns are laser-focused on public health and the economy, and how Utah’s next governor will balance these two imperatives.

In other places around the world, this balance has been positioned as an either-or proposition, but the Utah Leads Together plan, the state’s guide to a health and economic recovery, rightly recognizes the two issues go hand in hand. With the release last week of Utah Leads Together 4.0, the state turned its full attention to the details of economic recovery. The plan is the result of the best thinking from diverse minds across geography, background and industry. Its purpose is to give Utahns hope and a substantive playbook to chart our way back to prosperity. 

Utah Leads Together 4.0 outlines three phases of a healthy and thriving state with measurable goals and mile markers. These are 100, 250 and 500-day horizons to guide our priorities and our activities. The goal for the first 100 days is a return to full employment.  We can reach that goal through three focused efforts.

First and foremost is safety. Reactivating our economy safely is integral through each component of the plan and must be central to our efforts to catapult Utah back to the economic summit. Businesses across the state can show commitment to their customers and their community by taking the “Stay Safe to Stay Open” pledge. Businesses that take the pledge can display that commitment at their place of business so customers have confidence that those businesses are following state health guidelines. 

Second, our collective focus over the next 100 days must be helping businesses reopen safely as the best way to get people back to work. While many Utahns are currently on the unemployment rolls, the silver lining is that 77% of those individuals are still connected to a job. Since the vast majority of those currently unemployed are furloughed employees, we must ensure those jobs survive so those employees can return to work quickly.  

We also need to focus over the next 100 days on helping those without immediate work prospects to connect with the many job openings. We are fortunate that Utah had the fastest job growth rate in the nation when the pandemic hit, and because of that, our companies still have many available jobs.

Third, getting Utahns back to work will require economic restructuring, and the legislature has set aside CARES Act funding to target key industries that need assistance over the next 100 days. Targeted economic stimulus will help some of the most heavily impacted industries like hospitality and tourism to recover more quickly. We can make this a time to help Utahns shop, create, innovate, work and most importantly, stay healthy together. 

While it is true we are in the midst of an economic crisis, we are also in the midst of an economic renewal — a renewal that we are collectively building together. Whoever voters select to lead this state has an opportunity like no other in recent history — an opportunity to reshape Utah’s future, to lay a foundation of shared prosperity and to guide Utah to the top of the economic summit once again.

Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.