Utah Inland Port Authority formally launches with Derek Miller as chairman and James Rogers, vice-chairman

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) World Trade Center Utah president and CEO Derek Miller believes the North American Free Trade Agreement has helped Utah businesses but supports updates to reflect technological changes since the trade pact first was drafted 25 years ago.

The board of directors of a planned international trade hub in Salt Lake City elected Salt Lake Chamber president Derek Miller as its chairman Monday, with Salt Lake City Councilman James Rogers as vice-chairman.

Miller and Rogers were elected unanimously by the board, which formally convened for the first time Monday after an attempt to seat the board last month stalled amid procedural and conflict-of-interest concerns.

Following his election, Miller remarked that the board had answered three out of potentially 100 questions surrounding the development of the inland port. And in his first formal action as chairman, he sought a motion that the board of directors be subject to Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act, and other transparency laws.

“This is an important project,” Miller said. “I don’t know that we can overstate its importance on the future prosperity of our city.”

Miller described the inland port as a “century project” for the state of Utah. Development will continue as quickly as possible, he said, while still allowing for smart and deliberate planning.

“We’re just getting started,” Miller said. “Don’t drive out to the northwest quadrant tomorrow to see the port.”

Rogers, who represents Salt Lake City’s west side on the City Council, handed out “Westside” T-shirts to his inland port colleagues. He emphasized that the value of the shirts was under the $50 limit for gifts, and that they were intended to remind board members about the potential of the trading hub to affect the lives of Salt Lake City residents.

Salt Lake City Councilman James Rogers hands out T-shirts promoting the city's west-side to members of the Utah Inland Port Authority Board. Rogers sits on the board as a representative of the city.

“I’m excited for us to attack those impacts and what we’re going to do to create mitigations for those impacts,” he said.

Creation of the inland port has been a contentious issue for Salt Lake City and state leaders. The original legislation forming the port authority was criticized by Salt Lake City leaders as an inappropriate land- and tax-grab by the state.

Members of the City Council later negotiated amendments to the legislation, approved during a recent special session of the Legislature, while Mayor Jackie Biskupski largely withdrew from negotiation while threatening litigation.

Miller said it is his intention, and the intention of the board of directors, that the inland port be not only a benefit to the state, but also to its immediate neighbors.

“We want to involve them in the process,” Miller said. “Their voices aren’t just important, they’re critical to making sure this is done right.”

Following a recommendation by Rogers, the board voted to hold at least one meeting per quarter within the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City. Rogers argued that convening the board close to the inland port — and during afternoon or evening hours — would facilitate west side residents interested in attending meetings.

“We’re going to continue to push that,” Rogers said.

He said his election to the board’s leadership, by a unanimous vote, indicates sincerity on the board to work with and address the concerns of west side residents.

“You’re going to be sure that the voice of the west side residents is going to be heard,” Rogers said. “Not only do I represent the area, I live there.”