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Investment in infrastructure and energy boost Utah's economy

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22 2013 6:47 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — For Utah’s economy to maintain its current growth trajectory, it will require continued investment in statewide infrastructure and resource development.

Utah’s economy is tied to the ability of the state to build, operate and maintain an efficient infrastructure, said Ben Christensen, research analyst of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Planned, strategic investment in infrastructure has helped Utah’s economic success and will be critical to its future, he added.

Economic development depends on an infrastructure that can support anticipated populations and the future demands of business and industry, Christensen said.

Members of the Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force heard that message Thursday at its monthly meeting at the state Capitol. The 16-member panel heard from state agency leaders in transportation, infrastructure, energy and water.

Infrastructure includes public and private facilities that provide water, sewer services, electricity, natural gas and other public utilities to homes, schools and businesses, as well as facilities that provide for the movement of people and goods.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development said the state’s relatively strong infrastructure and low-cost energy have been significant factors in helping Utah progress toward the governor’s goal of creating 100,000 new jobs in 1,000 days.

“We’ve got really low power rates, and that’s a key component for why companies relocate here,” said Spencer Eccles, GOED executive director.

Transportation and energy are key areas where Utah wins when compared with its Western neighbors vying for corporations and businesses to move into their state, he said.

Since November 2011, Utah has created 72,300 jobs, according to GOED. The state’s unemployment rate is at 4.6 percent, with a job growth rate of 3.5 percent.

Utah has experienced strong growth in its tech sector, resulting in thousands of new jobs in the past two years, the agency stated.

For example, eBay values sustainability and specifically chose Utah to expand its operations because of the state’s commitment to invest in renewable resources and long-term infrastructure improvements, GOED officials said.

In August 2011, the global online auction marketer announced plans to expand its operations in Draper to include construction of the now completed state-of-the-art facility that opened in May. In addition, the company said it would hire 2,200 more workers over the next two decades. A spokesman said eBay has already added 400 new jobs since then.

In Utah, eBay currently employs about 1,800 workers — about 10 percent of its global workforce — and operates a major customer service center in Draper that includes support functions such as human resources, finance, account management, call center management, training and legal, along with product and project management. The company also operates a data center in South Jordan.

Eccles said continued investment in infrastructure and energy are major selling points of the state’s recruiting efforts.

“It is really playing to our benefit. All of the success that we have enjoyed … is not an accident,” he said. “We are just continuing to nurture and grow (the economy) like we always have.”

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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