Utah has the potential to become the Japan of the western United States in the 1990s, according to Kelly Matthews, senior vice president and chief economist for First Security Corp.
His comments came Friday during the first fiscal summit conference of the Utah Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations in the Salt Lake County Complex. Matthews said there are five reasons Utah could become a major economic power in the next decade:-Utah is one of the few areas in the United States with a growing work force from an indigenous population, meaning people don't have to be imported to fill the jobs.
-The state is proud of its educational accomplishments and is keeping high standards through long-range commitments.
-The type of society that exists in Utah, coupled with education, has combined to produce a good work force.
-Wage rates are low, which is good from a management point of view.
-There is space available where companies can locate or expand.
Drawing a comparison, Matthews said that after World War II Japan was a devastated country in many ways, but in the subsequent years it has grown in wealth and power.
The Japanese accomplished the economic turnaround by maximizing their human resources, which were large, rather than relying on a limited number of natural resources.
The change came because the Japanese had a growing labor force, had an emphasis on the family and societal structure and put a priority on education as an investment in the future. They were also willing to work hard. Several of these characteristics are similar to those existing in Utah and could help Utah's economic picture in the next decade, he said.
When asked how he could compare the American free enterprise system to the government subsidized system in Japan, Matthews said it is true that companies get a boost in Japan, but cooperation at many levels has helped that country recover nicely from the war.
Matthews stressed that education is very important in Utah "because it is the key to prosperity." He said in the early 1990s the number of children entering Utah schools is expected to decrease slowly. But that only means a continued emphasis on education is needed because in a few years they will want to attend college.
He said Utahns must be "a cut above the average worker" so adequate funding for education is necessary.
As a backdrop to his forecasts for Utah's economic situation in the 1990s, Matthews reviewed the inflation, scarcities and energy boom of the 1970s that changed to an energy bust, deflation, industrial closures and overbuilding in the construction industry in the 1980s.
For the early 1990s, Matthews sees no major changes in the price of oil, either up or down, and no major expansion for Geneva Steel or Kennecott Utah Copper, so the emphasis must be on human resources.