October 8, 2013

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Bringing a second major league sports team into Utah always seemed like an...Read More

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Article

If You Build It

EDCU’s Jeff Edwards Talks Economic Development

Interviewed by Sarah Ryther Francom

October 8, 2013

Diversity is another issue. Diversity isn’t something we can easily adjust, but you can help people find the resources. If you’re recruiting someone from an Indian family, for example, would they really want to come and live in Sandy or Lehi? But you drive them down to Spanish Fork and show them the Hindu Temple right there and introduce them to people and show them there is a community here. The [state’s diversity] is not on the surface like it is in other areas, but it’s there.

What about pollution?

Air quality and water are our two natural resource questions. Water—the good news for all of us is that those who came long before us, 40 years ago, made the politically hard decision to build things like the Central Utah Project and things like that that we are all taking advantage of today. They were very expensive and very hard to do, but they were done. We’ve got to have the same political will to do the hard things.

Our air quality is an economic development issue. It’s gotten to the point where we have people who are choosing not to live here because of it. And we’ve got people who are choosing to leave. The challenge is that it is the ultimate political tar baby—nobody owns it. Is it the county’s responsibility? Is it the city’s? Is it the state’s? Who owns it? The answer is nobody—nobody really owns it. It’s a real complex issue.

The good news is we only have it as a serious issue for a short number of days in a year versus other areas that deal with it every single day. I believe we’ll find success if we ask people to make a sacrifice for a short amount of time. At the end of the day, it comes up to people’s choices that they’re making.

What can companies do?

For example, the Department of Environmental Quality can predict when red days are going to happen. So you can send out an alert to your employees that it’s going to be a red alert day and they can work from home or carpool that day.

I’m on the governor’s UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership) board and we’re just getting that off the ground. We’re trying to come up with ways to help businesses help their employees. We’ve also got a program where we provide grants and loans focused on small businesses and medium-sized businesses to, for example, purchase air-quality equipment.

How will the state’s changing demographics impact its future?

It depends on how well we do with education. If we can harness the whole workforce and not allow parts of it to not participate it’ll work. If we don’t do that, we’ll be looking at the same problem—having a shortage of workforce—in the next 10 years. It comes back to education.

What is your vision of Utah in 10 years?

I got into this business because I wanted my kids to have a better opportunity than I did. When I graduated from college, if you wanted to work for defense or mining that was about it. If you wanted to do something else, you had to leave. Today, it couldn’t be more different. All the clusters are working well. There are strong opportunities. For my kids and for my grandkids, it’s about having a strong, vibrant economy. 

 

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