Commentary: Global connections fuel Utah’s economic growth

When discussing Utah’s economic present and future, the topic of international trade is paramount. Utah is a global economy. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, engaging internationally isn’t a question of if, but of when and with whom.

On the heels of the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad uniting our country through trade and commerce, Utah is participating in the worldwide recognition of Global International Business Week from May 12-18. As a capstone event marking Utah’s efforts in international trade, Gov. Gary R. Herbert is hosting the 13th Annual Utah Economic Summit on May 17 to discuss current issues in Utah’s economy and the future growth of Utah’s business community.

The theme for this year’s summit, “Global Connections – How Utah’s Business-Elevated Mindset Creates Success,” demonstrates how important international trade and investment is to Utah. In fact, this year’s summit is combining with the annual Utah Global Forum for the first time, producing the state’s most comprehensive, high-profile forum for business and economic development. Headliners include Carly Fiorina, chairman of Carly Fiorina Enterprises and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Sarah E. Kemp, deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade; Jesús Seade, Mexico’s top negotiator for the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement; and many others.

This combined summit is indicative of broader changes occurring in Utah’s economy as it continues the longest expansion period of the state's history. That growth is due in part to the business-friendly environment cultivated here through years of fiscal stewardship and practical political leadership. Utah ranks first as the nation’s most diverse economy and consistently leads across categories such as GDP growth, job creation and population growth.

Utah’s economic growth is inextricably tied to its increasing connections to international markets. With more than $14 billion in goods sold globally in 2018, Utah’s export growth now ranks 4th in the nation. Utah’s attractiveness as an investment destination is clear, with international investors fueling innovation and growth across the state.

SAP’s $8 billion acquisition of Qualtrics is just one of countless examples of international investors and partners catalyzing growth for Utah companies. The proof of Utah’s international success is printed in headlines and more importantly, in accounting ledgers statewide, as Utah’s exports stretch across more than 30 industries, supporting over 3,500 small businesses and more than one in five jobs across the state.

Utah is better positioned now more than ever to win internationally, but sustaining our economic heading requires us to address new challenges to international trade and investment. Utah’s businesses will face a headwind overseas if negotiating brinkmanship via Twitter and congressional politics derail the development and approval of trade deals.

By engaging directly with partners abroad, we create strong relationships that make it easier to identify and capitalize on opportunities to expand international trade and investment. Over the past few months, Utah’s government and business community has engaged with business and government leaders from our strongest trading partners, including Mexico, Canada and China, as well as some of our greatest growth markets, such as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Looking ahead, Herbert is leading an aerospace-focused trade mission to Europe in June, and a trade mission to Hong Kong and Japan in September focused on the outdoor, life sciences and financial services industries.

An effort of this scale requires statewide collaboration and support. World Trade Center Utah and the Salt Lake Chamber work hand-in-hand with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and many others to elevate Utah’s global status in order to promote prosperity and build economic resilience for the state. This Team Utah approach leverages the experience and collective efforts towards Utah’s international objectives.

To be a part of the discussion and help set the framework for Utah’s international efforts, join us at the Utah Economic Summit on May 17. Visit utaheconomicsummit.com to learn more.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Derek Miller, President and CEO of Salt Lake Chamber, makes a few comments during a forum on how American aid strengthens national security and creates opportunities for Utah businesses, sponsored by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, at Thanksgiving Point, Friday, April 5, 2019.

Derek Miller is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

Miles Hansen | World Trade Center Utah

Miles Hansen is president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.