On a Wednesday night in early December 1995, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt walked into Cottonwood High School’s auditorium to begin the first of what would be a three-day “Growth Summit” to discuss Utah’s future. Only months earlier, the International Olympic Committee made its announcement that the Winter Olympic Games in 2002 would come to Salt Lake City.

Once the announcement celebration quieted, the urgency began for those in charge of welcoming the world. Interstate-15, the main corridor through the expanding Wasatch Front, was crowded with cars, and words like “gridlock” were becoming part of daily conversation. The need for housing to match growth brought not just transportation worries, but water worries. Would there be enough water for the growing population?

People did not yet fully understand the monumental changes the internet would bring to business, education and all aspects of society. Open lands debates were part of the conversation on housing and expansion. And what about trains and buses? A potential $3.5 billion price tag over 10 years was discussed. That was the figure that night nearly 30 years ago. And the backdrop was a group of protesters in the parking lot pushing back against any suggestion of rail along the Wasatch Front. Where would the money come from? Would it change life in Utah?

But Leavitt had a vision, and that vision soon was shared by other leaders: “There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see and small enough to solve,” he told the audience. And now is that time, he said.

Last Friday, April 5, 2024, former Gov. Leavitt and some of the people who attended those earlier meetings were back in a discussion. There, at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, and partnered with the Deseret News, the seventh, eighth and ninth panel discussions about Utah’s future were held. And Leavitt, 20 years after leaving the governor’s chair, repeated that important observation and challenge: “There is a time in the life of every problem when it is big enough to see and small enough to solve,” he told the audience that included state legislators, government leaders and media to carry the message. And now is that time, he said.

Under the banner “What’s Past is Prologue,” he observed that all the issues they were dealing with decades ago again need attention. We hope the Olympics are returning; the International Olympic Committee is in Utah this week assessing Utah’s venues. There is anticipation of a summer announcement of a return of the Games to Salt Lake City.

Artificial intelligence, like the internet before it, will certainly change all aspects of society. Our roads and transportation need upgrades, if not expansion. I-15 is crowded thanks to growth and will continue to need attention with every passing decade.

What more should be done with rail?

Growth and housing continue to squeeze Utah. But it’s a sign of the state’s prosperity, which this week was named the nation’s hottest job market, ahead of 379 other metro areas, by The Wall Street Journal and Moody’s Analytics.

Former Gov. Leavitt speaks of a “generational relay,” as leaders change. We applaud Gov. Spencer Cox, whose “Disagree Better” campaign isn’t just a feel-good effort. Its purpose is to get things done. If we can’t debate and discuss the issues, we can’t solve them. He is tackling the issues described, including transportation and education, but also the southern border crisis that remains unresolved. And the Olympics provide an opportunity again to get things done.

Utah is unique. Its leaders (for the most part) work together. The Growth Summit held back in 1995 could easily have been called The Prosperity Summit, because the issues and solutions brought forward have led to this moment of prosperity in Utah. The key now is to not just maintain it, but to enhance it and stretch it to everyone who calls Utah home.