Acknowledging that global trade has hurt some workers in Utah, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams recently said that it ultimately can boost economic opportunity for all.
Speaking at the Metro Solutions event, McAdams and others pushed for a regional approach that gets more companies and more industries involved in exporting and more foreign direct investment coming into the area.
“We know that the shift to a global economy has not come without some pain, particularly for those employees in manufacturing and other sectors right here in the United States but also right here in the Salt Lake Valley,” McAdams said. “It’s come with some pain for those employees, for jobs in those sectors have shifted overseas. Despite the overall economic recovery since the Great Recession, that shift has led to uneven results for too many individuals and too many families.
“Increased global engagement is not a panacea,” he said, adding that by focusing on regional assets and strengths and by supporting the private sector in strengthening its assets to the global marketplace and talent, the region has a path forward to “growing household incomes here in the Salt Lake metro area and for increased economic opportunity for everyone.”
A regional approach, he said, allows the county to help all 18 cities and five townships as a unified metro area.
“A regional approach to economic development does not pit one city against another, does not pit one business against another, but rather unites individual strengths into a strong economic framework,” McAdams said, adding that the necessary elements include infrastructure, workforce development, business retention and expansion and global engagement.
“Only by taking a regional approach do we believe that we can ensure our businesses stay globally competitive, that our workforce has an opportunity for good-paying jobs now and in the future, and that our families participate in a broad-based prosperity and maintain a strong standard of living here in the Salt Lake Valley.”
Derek Miller, president and chief executive officer of World Trade Center Utah, noted that Utah has the sixth-fastest export economy among states and was the only state to double exports during the past decade. More than 3,500 Utah companies are involved in international trade, with 85 percent being small businesses. Twenty-two percent of Utah jobs are supported by international business.
McAdams said the county must focus on its economic strengths and address its weakness as it tries to boost international trade. For one, the county’s export portfolio lacks diversity — primary metal manufacturing accounts for over half of its exports, making exporting highly reliant on that sector and Kennecott in particular.
“We should look to diversify our export portfolio, continuing to promote the exports we have right now, including our primary metal manufacturing, but also increasing exports from other industries is critical to sustaining and growing our region’s trade economy and our jobs,” he said.
The county also hopes to expand the number of small and medium-sized companies that export.
“It’s not easy, when you’re a small, fast-growing business or a medium-sized business, to think about reaching out to the global marketplace. … Some of you have done it and done so successfully, but it hasn’t been without some missteps along the way or some losses along the way, and we want to help these small and medium-sized businesses more quickly access the global marketplace,” the mayor said.
With a foundation developed over the past few years, “Salt Lake County is ready to move forward with regional economic development that will lift us all,” he said. “The next five to 10 years brings exciting opportunities for us and an even higher quality of life for our businesses and our residents.”
To help with the effort, World Trade Center Utah awarded more than $70,000 in Utah Export Acceleration Grants at the event. Miller said the grants will provide a boost to small and medium-sized businesses “to remove obstacles to growth by expanding markets, finding new customers overseas and making more at home that we can sell abroad.” The grants are the first of three rounds of funding, made possible by a $200,000 contribution from JPMorgan Chase & Co. World Trade Center Utah and Salt Lake County previously worked with JP Morgan Chase & Co. and the Brookings Institution on the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), designed to increase exports in the Salt Lake metro area, with the grant program being part of that initiative.
Grant recipients are Ardusat Inc., ByAnnie.com LLC, Knee MD, KW Excavation Inc., M-Vac Systems, Owlet Baby Care Inc., Quantum IR Technologies LLC, SEntrx Animal Care Inc., Spectra Symbol, The Blueberry Hill LLC, Tycon Systems Inc., Vitalpax Inc. and Design Criteria.