As part of last week’s “National Infrastructure Week,” our friends at the Salt Lake Chamber invited me to participate on a panel to discuss infrastructure and the vital role it plays in economic development. 

Abby Osborne led a great conversation between several friends of mine, including Representative Brad Wilson, Chris Gamvroulas (Ivory Homes), Cameron Diehl (Utah League of Cities and Towns), Andrew Gruber (Wasatch Front Regional Council), and Carlos Braceras (UDOT), on the interplay between infrastructure, land use, and economic development.

Needless to say, infrastructure is critical to economic development. In fact, according to EDCUtah’s most recent Site Selector Perception Study, 4 of the top 10 Site Selection Criteria factors relate to infrastructure. Transportation access, utility infrastructure, proximity to major markets, and utility costs all rank among the most important factors a Site Selector evaluates when advising a client. That information helps inform how important it is for our development partners to invest in infrastructure to continue our economic momentum.

One of my favorite parts of the conversation was a back-and-forth we had about whether or not most people will live and work in the same city in the future. It was really cool to see the optimism of our transportation partners and housing partners who firmly believe technological advances and multi-modal transportation will increase mobility options. If they’re correct, that changes the game in economic development because it will expand labor sheds and allow companies to reach employees that otherwise would have been inaccessible to them. As individuals, it allows you and me to have employment opportunities beyond our typical radius. I am excited to see how these technological advances, including autonomous vehicles, play out in the future. We have some of the best transportation executives in the country running our regional Metropolotian Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Department of Transportation (DOT), so I predict Utah will continue to be ahead of the curve on such issues going forward.

Chris Gamvroulas also reminded us that although state and local governments play a significant role in infrastructure development, the private sector risks private capital and oftentimes plays a key role in advancing development by fronting infrastructure investment. We’ve been "chasing" a really big/cool project for the last year or so that will be a perfect case-study of this. This investor will lay a massive amount of power, water, and telecommunications infrastructure and in doing so it will open up vast areas of a yet-to-be-developed region in the state for significant future expansion. I look forward to telling you all more about it in a future installment of the Fox Files.