June 1, 2012

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Salt Lake County Strides Above the Rest

Sarah Cutler

June 1, 2012

Internationally the economy is riddled with uncertainty. Nationally the economy is getting riskier by the day. But the Utah economy is powering through the challenges with excellent performance and continued growth, and Salt Lake County is coming out on top.

The Salt Lake Chamber and CBRE released a combined 2012 Salt Lake County Economic Outlook report that contains great news for Utah, but with a word of caution nationally.

Salt Lake County has experienced an urban recovery, according to Natalie Gochnour, executive vice president and chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber. Utah has job growth numbers that are higher than the nation and even higher in Salt Lake County.

These major projects in Salt Lake County and around Utah are signs that both public and private sectors are committed to continued economic growth:

  • City Creek Center
  • Regional commuter rail expansion
  • Sugar House street car
  • New Adobe campus
  • NSA project
  • Boeing
  • Business Depot Ogden
  • Family Dollar Distribution Center (St. George)
  • Campbell’s Soup Facility
  • New federal courthouse
  • Station Park Farmington Retail & Multifamily
  • SLC International Airport rebuild

Projects, such as City Creek Center, bring high success to Utah, according to the report. Activity is not just re-circulating but growing. More people are coming to Salt Lake County and to Utah because of these projects.

“All these projects are going to promote growth for years to come. These types of infrastructure enhancements really are an advantage that other states don’t have,” said Darin Mellott, senior research analyst at CBRE, Salt Lake City. “The contrast really couldn’t be clearer. Nationally policy uncertainty is restraining and in Utah our consistent economic stewardship has really fostered growth.”

How does Utah stay ahead of the curve? Gochnour said Utah has key features to stay on top including an orderly fiscal house, strong demographic trends in the state and an economy that is balanced with diversity. Industrial Utah has tourism, defense, mining, energy, agriculture, technology and more that keep it from tipping too far to one side.

“When you come to Utah you have a situation where we’ve had stellar economic leadership. This is a state that is more fiscally prudent, responsible than really any state that I’m aware of,” said Gochnour.

“We have a AAA bond rating; we have a rainy day fund with cash in the bank, even after this large fiscal crisis. We have a balanced budget requirement. We have statutory and constitutional bonding limitation. We have a line item veto. We are very careful on the fiscal side of the house. It is no accident that Utah’s economy is performing far better than the nation’s, and is in fact the third-fastest growing economy in the country.”

Mellot said the downside is the U.S. has to get its economic act together. Utah is expected to continue its growth, but can’t stand alone. “We need policy makers in the US and in Europe to act responsibly and address long-term issues. Provided that they can do that and these problems are contained, we will absolutely continue growing and we have every reason to be optimistic,” said Mellott.

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