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Opinion: The Utah Inland Port Authority’s vision for sustainable economic opportunities

We are committed to keeping Utah the ‘Crossroads of the West’ for years to come

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Salt Lake City’s newest public art piece, “Trade Balance,” stands in the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. The piece completes Utah’s largest above-ground art installation and is a nod to the Northwest Quadrant’s commerce, logistics, manufacturing and distribution industries.

Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

With our dynamic economy, skilled workforce and business-friendly policies, it’s no wonder Utah has become the fastest-growing state in the union. Consistently leading the nation in economic stability and upward mobility with unmatched opportunity, Utah has cemented its status as the “Crossroads of the West.” 

Policymakers, stakeholders and businesses have worked hand-in-hand for decades to create sustainable economic opportunities that benefit Utahns statewide. In 2018, the Utah Inland Port Authority, or UIPA, was created to do just this. However, since its formation, UIPA has undeniably become a topic of lively discussion and debate, and rightfully so. More often than not, the question arises, “Why? Why should Utah have an Inland Port?” My response: “Why not?” 

Utah has long been known for its industrious spirit, hence the Beehive State namesake. Building upon our history of implementing forward-thinking, innovative and collaborative solutions, UIPA aims to drive economic activity, support job creation, especially in rural communities, and better the lives of Utahns in every corner of the state. Its mission is simple — to maximize long-term economic benefits in Utah, with a particular focus on rural communities. 

To accomplish this goal, UIPA worked alongside community leaders to establish eight statewide port project areas in 2023 — from Iron County to Box Elder County. Each port project is initiated and driven by local officials and leaders in a concerted effort to drive economic development opportunities in their communities. These areas are not just operational hubs for production; they are centers for cultivating collaborative innovation, enhancing global connectivity and streamlining business operations. And most importantly, these projects create meaningful, well-paying jobs and unmatched, unprecedented economic development opportunities for Utah’s rural communities. 

And to be clear, UIPA doesn’t promote projects at the expense of our environment. Our beautiful landscapes and abundant natural resources are what make Utah, Utah. Putting our most precious elements at risk would be irresponsible and counterproductive. That’s why careful, thorough and strategic consideration is given to each project — to ensure we meet our goal of economic prosperity and sustainable development. Despite public narratives, the two are not mutually exclusive. We can and should prioritize both. 

UIPA is more than a facilitator of industrial growth; we are a catalyst for a balanced and sustainable future. We are an incubator for economic success across the state. And we are committed to keeping Utah as the “Crossroads of the West” for years to come. 

Abby Osborne serves as chair of the Utah Inland Port Authority board and chief of staff at the Utah House of Representatives.