As Utah prepares to enter the 21st century, it's nice to know the hub of its statewide economic wheel is in excellent shape.

Salt Lake City has cracked the top 10 commercial real estate markets in five categories for the first time, including two top rankings.Rankings for downtown and suburban office markets, retail stores, industrial properties and residential apartments place Salt Lake City among the hottest commercial real estate sites in the nation.

That's according to Valuation International Ltd., an Atlanta-based real estate investment consulting firm that monitors commercial property valuations in the 50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Utah's capital is also ranked seventh in the study in terms of its percentage of population growth and sixth in jobs growth.

"The five-year outlook for Salt Lake City is expected to be sunny as the city will benefit from hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics," states Viewpoint, a publication that analyzes real estate value trends and publishes the findings of Valuation International Ltd.

Various public and private groups in Utah need to use that outlook as a springboard to provide positive ways to address the anticipated growth into the next century.

Gov. Mike Leavitt is right when he says the state, local government and the private sector cannot each on its own solve the various challenges that come with growth. Cooperations is needed to provide what's best for Utah. That, of course, includes strong leadership from the governor and the Legislature.

Transportation in the 21st century is a critical issue. It needs to continue to be a subject of discussion and visionary planning. The I-15 reconstruction project and other road projects like the Legacy Highway, need to be part of an overall plan that includes light rail, communter rail and other public-transportation components.

In order to get people out of their cars, public transportation needs to be convenient. If it's not, people will continue to take their chances with clogged highways.

Another key to a prosperous future for Utah is to preserve open spaces in the midst of the development boom. Parks, farms and undeveloped land need to be a significant part of 21st century Utah. They remind us that life is not all work and that recreation and relaxation are essential to a sound mind and healthy lifestyle.

A glowing forecast for Salt Lake City must be coupled with strong and effective leadership in both the public and private sectors for the future of Utah and its people.