Last week our Board of Advisors met and heard from Senator Ann Millner, Representative Mike Schultz, GOED Executive Director Val Hale, and UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras to learn more about the recently completed 2018 Legislative Session.
We were specifically focused on two critical legislative issues that relate to what I call “the long game” of economic development: education and transportation.
Senator Millner carried a few pieces of legislation designed to bolster Utah’s talent pipeline, including a piece of legislation that provides forgivable loans to students who go into high demand degree fields and who work in a high-demand position in Utah post-graduation. This piece of legislation is intended to incentivize students. I am optimistic it will be yet another way for Utah to increase its value proposition to competitive, innovative, employers of choice seeking to find the best talent in the world. Thanks to Sen. Millner and Val Hale for working together on a piece of legation that will deepen Utah’s talent pool.
Additionally, we learned more about the “grand compromise” between the Our Schools Now Initiative and legislative leaders. In a rare policy vote, our Board of Trustees supported the OSN desired outcome of increased educational spending advocated for by OSN. Our organization was happy to learn that, pending a ballot measure this fall, Utah schools will benefit from a significant amount of new resources to help Utah's public schools be even more effective.
We also learned about the comprehensive transportation bill that will further align UDOT with transit projects. This is important for our line of work because we are seeing an increased demand by firms seeking to maximize their talent scope. Firms’ ability to reach talent relies on a transportation system that is comprehensive, that is integrated, and that factors economic development into its planning. It was great to hear from Carlos and Rep. Schultz on some of the minutia related to this bill.
Further, we were happy to learn that the Mega Sites initiative we have been working on was fully funded by the Utah State Legislature. We thank Governor Herbert, his team from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and legislative leaders for their confidence in and support of the program. We are also very grateful to Utah County, Farmland Reserve, CRS Engineers, and our Mega Sites Steering Committee for laying a strong foundation for this program through the Elberta Mega Site. We look forward to running a terrific program for years to come. I’m excited to share the news of our Mega Sites program with the country’s top site selectors when I travel to Cincinnati this week for the prestigious Site Selectors Guild Conference.
Thank you to our legislative leaders. They don’t always get everything right, but there were some huge pieces of legislation this year that are very important for Utah’s continued economic success. As with other public servants, it’s often a thankless job. However, the economic development teams across the state are grateful to be working in the country’s top market and that wouldn’t be possible were it not for a policy foundation that is conducive to economic development.