Economic development officials can’t help but dread recruiting tours on those winter days when northern Utah’s air is choked with pollution.
It happened last year, when foul air prompted representatives of a sophisticated foreign solar panels company to cut short a site visit, said Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
“These folks were shocked, literally shocked, to see that kind of thing going on,” he said of the red-alert air conditions. “They basically said we’re going to conclude our visit early because we’re just not interested in being in a place that has this kind of issue.”
Edwards was a presenter last month at the Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force’s first session devoted to air-quality.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said it may have been the first time lawmakers have ever devoted an entire meeting to the subject, which has been elevated in recent months to a high-priority quality of life issue linked to the state’s economic fortunes.
“It was a great start,” said Arent, who originally proposed the topic for a stand-alone task force last winter and is looking forward to a Thursday, Oct. 4 meeting.
Besides comments from Edwards and the Chamber of Commerce, speakers included representatives from the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the governor’s environmental adviser and Utah’s top air-quality regulator.
In addition, Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the advocacy group Breathe Utah, discussed the impacts of air pollution on her patients and what the scientific literature says about it.
“We asked all of them to bring ideas, suggestions,” said Arent.
In the end, the task force’s aim is to provide solutions, she added. “The question is, how can the Legislature help improve air quality.”
A second task force meeting on air quality is set for 8 a.m. Thursday at the state Capitol, Room 445.