With Utah households having an average of 2.6 children - the national average is 1.9 - the state has proportionally fewer workers available to bear the tax burden of public education, Gov. Norm Bangerter said.
Speaking at the spring conference of the Great Salt Lake Chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, Bangerter said that for every 100 workers in Utah, 49 children are in school. The national average is 30 students.Because of this high birthrate, Utah has a good crop of workers who are potential employees for companies wanting to relocate here. That is one of the items companies look for in moving an operation to another state. But making sure workers that are trained to meet the needs of such companies is a key challenge for Utah, Bangerter said.
Bangerter said the quality of the work force is exceptional in Utah and one of the main reasons is that literacy for the adult population is 94 percent, compared with a national average of 87 percent.
Other measures of quality or productivity of the work force such as health and life expectancy, alcoholism, absenteeism and educational attainment, put Utah among the top states in the United States. "And we have many testimonials from plant managers telling us that their Utah plants are among their most productive plants in the world," the governor said.
He said the cost of the labor force is a sensitive subject and the state has been criticized for attracting low-paying jobs. He said the cost of labor and wage level may be a good deal for both Utah employers and employees.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports average annual pay for Utah in 1989 was 86 percent of the national average with every Mountain West state below the average, ranging from 97 percent in Colorado to 76 percent in Montana.
A study by the Utah Department of Employment Security measuring buying power shows that Wasatch Front cities are above the national average and above San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Tucson, Las Vegas, Reno, Albuquerque and Portland, Bangerter said.
The governor said studies show that a $24,000 teacher's salary in Utah has a buying power of $27,000, but a Boston teacher's $34,000 salary only has a buying power of $19,000 because things cost more in that area.
He said the 1990s should be good for Utah because school enrollment will level off and labor shortages, excessive costs and environmental problems on the East Coast and in California will give Utah a chance to attract some business to the area.
Attention has been placed on doing business in Utah through national media, and the state is getting a reputation as a center for advanced technology. Couple this with an exceptional labor force at a reasonable cost, a good transportation system, a competitive business tax climate and a good infrastructure and Utah should continue to prosper, the governor said.