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Opinion: Can Utah help solve the supply chain crisis?

The controversial but needed Utah Inland Port can enhance manufacturing in Utah and other Western states, promising to handle exports and imports more efficiently

A container ship is docked at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach in Calif.
A container ship is docked at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., in October. Many parts of the country have been hit by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. The Utah Inland Port hopes to alleviate some of these problems.
Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

The nation is dealing with some big problems. Here’s a look at a couple of them and how Utah might contribute to their solutions. Also, we’re political hacks, but we also notice sports.

The nation faces a serious supply chain problem just as the holiday shopping season starts. Can Utah provide some help to solve this and other economic problems?

Pignanelli: “On Twitter, the supply chain has been blamed for: getting nothing done, disappointed children, an excess of camouflage pajama pants, hungry dogs, insomnia, bare grocery store shelves … and dating advice.”Aurora Almendral, Quartz

Teenagers are known for sleeping late until a parent screams a wake-up demand because a school or work obligation is being blissfully ignored. Similarly, throughout history our nation has slumbered until an economic, military or technology catastrophe awakened us. Today we are amid a five-alarm signal snapping us to attention.

Free trade fosters the exchange of products and services among nations — increasing economic opportunities across the planet. But the pandemic revealed a complacency in manufacturing, shipping and protecting intellectual property. Interchange with nations collapsed because the current system is vulnerable to shocks.

Fortunately, this crisis is providing opportunities for Utah to take advantage as the “crossroads of the West.” The rural economic development incentive program initiated under prior administrations and supercharged by Gov. Spencer Cox is promoting manufacturing in efficient and ecological methods. This is a critical formula, that if replicated elsewhere, can give Americans local access to needed goods and avoid unfriendly leverage from other nations.

The controversial but needed Utah Inland Port can enhance manufacturing in Utah and other Western states, promising to handle exports and imports more efficiently. Because Utah is facing a clean air dilemma, the port will encourage environmentally sensitive operations.

The U.S. will eventually overcome this crisis by following Utah’s lead. Unlike the atypical teenager, our state was already awake and moving when the alarm sounded.

Webb: The Utah Legislature, working with the Salt Lake Chamber, was visionary in creating the Utah Inland Port system. It really can help ease California port delays and get more diesel truck off the highways, improving air quality, by better using the rail system to get goods to and from Utah.

With a state-of-the-art transloading facility using clean energy, Utah can make a difference in our nation’s supply chain logistics. The result will be more local manufacturing and warehousing, using clean energy and more good jobs. The benefits won’t be produced immediately, but long-term planning, taking advantage is Utah’s natural strengths, is vital for a continued strong economy.

A shortage of eager workers continues to hamper small and large businesses. This problem highlights a dysfunctional immigration system that divides the nation and leaves illegal immigrants in limbo. How can Utah help?

Pignanelli: The American economy is desperately trying to rebound while inhibited by limited employment. We were in this situation before, and the solution has not changed — hard-working immigrants. Utah has a ready commonsense approach — the Utah Compact. Although developed several years ago, it remains a guidance for national lawmakers.

Webb: My wife and I are building a house right now. It has been a challenge for our contractors to find enough skilled workers. Most of those working on the home have been Hispanic, some not speaking English very well. They are terrific, hard-working tradesmen, expert in carpentry, masonry, roofing, siding installation, Sheetrocking, etc. They work long hours and earn good money. I expect many of their next generation will be college graduates. We need more of them.

Immigration is a quintessential federal responsibility. Congress has been criminally negligent for years in not creating a modern, efficient immigration system that secures our borders, keeps bad people out, while providing a reasonably straightforward opportunity for many good people to immigrate to our country and help build America. Almost all of us descend from such immigrants. The Utah Compact shows the way.

On the bright side, it’s fun to be a Utahn right now. 2021 has been an amazing year for women’s and men’s sports teams in Utah. What has contributed to all this success on the football, basketball, soccer and volleyball arenas?

Pignanelli: Utah is a cool place that attracts young athletes from across the planet … and within our state. Our universities and colleges strive to follow the “Utah Way,” offering opportunities and lifestyles that promote excellence in education, athletic competition and ethical conduct.

Webb: It’s really all about great leadership. Excellent organizations, whether in sports, politics or business, require great leaders. Leaders make all the difference. Utah is blessed with some terrific athletic directors, coaches, team owners and university administrators.

Athletic superiority, like excellence in business, politics, nonprofits and government, doesn’t happen by happenstance. It’s not luck. The competition is daunting. Getting to the top, and staying there, requires incessant focus, hard work, learning from failure, intense attention to detail, quick action at times, wisdom and first-class character traits. Congrats to all the Utah sports teams, and all who associate with them, who exemplify excellence.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.