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Utah Business

The Salt Lake City International Airport expansion, due to open phase one this month, is a significant achievement of planning, engineering, and economic development

Phase one of the new airport expansion is here

The pandemic has us longing for the days of leisure travel and recognizing the importance of an international airport in our hometown. The Salt Lake City International Airport expansion, due to open phase one this month, is a significant achievement of planning, engineering, and economic development. Completion will come in several years but this new phase will unlock greater opportunities for Salt Lake City and our state for decades to come. 

While we are all feeling the lingering effects of the coronavirus, good things have developed in response to aid our future plans. Delta Air Lines, for one, developed the Delta CareStandard, a pledge to keep you safe from curb to baggage claim. One new innovative safety feature is their electrostatic machines that clean air and surfaces against multiple contaminated touches. 

The new facility will also be more efficient and functionally flexible with the ability to grow well into the future. This will allow Salt Lake City to remain cost-efficient for airline operations. The continued partnership with Delta will offer us regional competitive advantages as this expansion cements our presence as a business destination, providing passengers with advanced operations and superior service. 

Moreover, the local economic impact of the development project is staggering. The New SLC Project is expected to generate another $0.88 in the economy―through indirect and induced effects―for every $1 of initial expenditure. Furthermore, the project will contribute annually to supporting roughly 3,300 full-time jobs totaling $165 million in wages and income, $261 million to the GDP, and nearly $422 million in total economic output.

While these economic numbers are impressive, they are only one part of the project’s anticipated impact. Airports generate business clusters through sector growth around industries, they facilitate foreign direct investment, and other additive benefits impacting the state and regional economy. Utah, a center for tourism and trade, can expect to see increases in these areas once the virus subsides. This will increase tax revenue and showcase our beautiful state.

In its design, all things were considered, including the objective to meet the highest environmental standards as acknowledged with the coveted LEED Gold certification, indicating the airport is as green as possible. And as if that was not enough, the project was undertaken without taxpayer funds. All expenditures have been, and will continue to be, financed with airport savings, federal grants, passenger facility charges, rental car fees, and revenue bonds, following the “Utah Way” of a balanced fiscal approach that was planned and saved for over the past decade. 

It has been said that airports are the new harbors of economic growth, and Salt Lake City’s will represent America’s first airport unveiled in the 21st century. As one observer has noted, the new airport will “shape business location and development in the 21st century similar to highways last century, railroads in the 19th, and seaports of the 18th century.” This commercial node will contribute to the wealth of our state and region not only as cargo moves in but individuals, families, and entrepreneurs begin to build the economy, creating jobs, opportunity, and growth.  

Some of the common problems in need of change, such as poverty and stagnated mobility, will also be positively affected. The new airport will play an important role in supporting cities throughout the Intermountain West, contributing to infrastructure growth, poverty reduction, and more convenient access to the world. The commercial development that will sprout up across the state will continue to help Utah remain the destination for business. The boost to retail, manufacturing, aerospace, logistics, research, and innovation along with life sciences will turn Utah from being the “Crossroads of the West” to the “Crossroads of the World.”  
The democratization of air travel as a form of mobility has only accelerated with the rise in technology and remote working. As we showcase all that Utah has to offer in terms of quality of life, with a state business climate second to none, I expect more business executives to advocate bringing jobs to Utah in part because of the influence of our new luxury airport—a jewel that will illuminate our city and state for decades to come.