Annual Meeting Attendees Get Tips on Maximizing International Commerce at World Trade Center Utah
On Thursday, July 29, attendees from the 48th ALEC Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City visited World Trade Center Utah (WTC-Utah) to learn how the state maximizes international trade to create jobs and economic opportunity for Utahns. WTC-Utah, which has adopted a knotwork-inspired emblem to symbolize Utah as the “Crossroads of the World,” assembled a panel of international trade experts from WTC-Utah, the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), Go Utah, members and staff of the Utah State Legislature and a local small business owner who expanded her firm’s prospects by reaching out to customers overseas. WTC-Utah’s mission is to ensure “that doing business around the world should be as easy as doing business across the street.” The secret to Utah’s success at facilitating economic prosperity through international commerce is an optimal environment created by the state’s culture, geographic location, public diplomacy efforts, heritage and the skills honed by Utahns combined with an innovative, team-based, public-private-partnership (P3) approach where the Governor’s Office outsources trade to World Trade Center Utah. Underpinning this method is a belief that commerce flourishes when government largely gets out of the way, stepping in only when necessary.
Utah is a leader in the life sciences, information technology (Silicon Slopes), financial services, energy and aerospace sectors, and the state legislature actively promotes conditions for international commercial partnerships to flourish while avoiding the pitfalls of promising incentives to overseas investors that fail to enhance Utah’s economy. A Utah State Senator panelist explained that when done right, economic development is strategic! An example of this strategic thinking is a deal made with a Swiss company that specializes in rail cars ideally suited to mountainous terrain to design the infrastructure needed to transport future Olympians from the airport in Salt Lake City to Park City, UT in anticipation of hosting the Winter Olympics in the 2030s.
Utah is constructing the Utah Inland Port Authority-UIPA, an inland dry port that will facilitate the movement of goods from the ports of Long Beach and Oakland in California to help connect Utah with more global markets. Utah, with an unemployment rate ranging from 2-3%, wants to increase immigration. To calm worker fears about dislocation, companies upskill their employees to program robots so that automation is seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. Using all of the resources at its disposal including Utah’s human resources, the state leverages its young, multilingual workforce and the global relationships they cultivate during overseas missionary work to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
The speakers view industrial policy, the IRS and the SEC as the greatest impediments to trade and credit conservative, free market principles with creating the optimal landscape for international commerce to thrive. These principles underpin the success of Utah’s economy which is so diversified and resilient that even the COVID pandemic created economic opportunities. As one panelist observed, “If you’re not growing your trade, you’re missing huge opportunities.” Utah is ranked number one for economic outlook in Rich States, Poor States as well.