Opinion: The inland port is poised to help Utah grow smarter
Utah will continue to grow with or without our ‘permission.’ The question is — how will it grow? Why not be smarter, more strategic and more deliberate about it?
It’s no secret that the state of Utah is incredible for business. Everyone gets an opportunity to succeed, whether it’s an Amazon distribution center employing hundreds or a mom-and-pop store with a crew of five. It’s a business-friendly place, no two ways about it.
That’s why the Utah Inland Port Authority is working hard to modernize the logistics industry. The process of moving goods needs to be more efficient. It needs to be done smarter. And it absolutely must be done more sustainably. The market demands it — it’s good business.
It means imported fitness equipment arriving in Logan when it is supposed to, and agriculture exports shipping from Ephraim at lower costs.
The supply chain is critical to a thriving economy, and it’s apparent how much value state leaders place upon this crucial aspect of our lives. Recent legislation aimed at transitioning port authority to a more business-like operation aligns with our efforts over the past two years.
The inland port will be well served with additional logistics expertise on the board of directors, and that will help us serve our stakeholders as subject matter experts. It’s heartening to see our conversations with city leaders, legislators and partner agencies pay off with an expanded ability to do our work. Not to mention, more local parties in the community surrounding the inland port will benefit directly from the agreements formed in HB443. It’s a win-win for just about everyone.
Since I joined the port authority in mid-2019, we’ve worked with our board to shape this agency, and we’ve worked to evolve in ways many of us did not know were possible. Our organization signed some two-dozen agreements in 2021, including with the ports of Oakland and Long Beach. Those guys don’t typically sign deals with industry counterparts, but they realize the benefits Utah has to offer as we address the supply chain issues we currently face and look to how it needs to function in the future.
Now that the inland port is open for business, new service providers like Valor Victoria and others are looking to expand operations here after seeing nearly limitless potential. Our very first facility, built for transloading, will break ground this spring. Our state-of-the-art 5G network is coming along, and we are working closely with our partners at the city and state to address existing and future environmental issues. To say it’s an exciting time for the port authority is a huge understatement.
The Utah Inland Port Authority is not the only one growing. The state it serves is, too. The great news is that economic opportunity and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are absolutely intertwined.
The port authority recently hired Simona Smith as our first environmental engineer. This bright young woman will help us implement more of the sustainable development and operational practices our stakeholders and customers demand.
Our new transload facility will help air quality by transitioning more freight from truck to rail. Research and development projects within the port’s jurisdictional area will aid trucking companies in the transition to cleaner fuels and modernized fleets. All the while, we can reduce traffic impacts by implementing route efficiencies and timing models. Operating a truly “green” port isn’t simply an aspiration, it’s becoming a reality.
Utah will continue to grow with or without our “permission.” The question is — how will it grow? Why not be smarter, more strategic and more deliberate about it? Why not do it with an eye to the future?
As Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Braceras said at our highly successful logistics forum in January, the port authority gives Utah the opportunity to plan for short-term solutions and the next several decades of infrastructure development. This agency gives greater access to the international supply chain for more businesses in the state — importers, manufacturers, agriculture producers and more — and we can do it without negatively impacting our surrounding community.
Jack Hedge is the executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority.