Not only is Utah outperforming the national economy, there's about to be an announcement that more new jobs are coming to the state, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Tuesday at the Utah Taxpayers Association annual conference.

"The outlook is quite good. I would put it this way, I would say there is a very definite and distinct buzz about the Utah marketplace, not just here in the United States but indeed, throughout the world," Huntsman said. "More jobs in the pipeline? No question about it."

And although the governor said an announcement about those new jobs would be made in the coming weeks, details including an incentive package are expected to be discussed at Friday's meeting of the Governor's Office of Economic Development Board.

A GOED spokesman had little to say Tuesday. "Until we actually offer an incentive, we have nothing to announce on that because it's not completed yet," the spokesman, Michael Sullivan, said of what he described only as jobs that would be provided by a single company.

Huntsman told the business-oriented taxpayers watchdog organization that Utah already added 26,000 jobs in the past 12 months. That's up more than 2 percent, about five times the job growth rate of the United States, 0.4 percent.

But even though the outlook for state is good, the governor said there are challenges Utah will have to address to remain competitive. In the next 50 years, he said the state's population is expected to reach 7 million, an increase of 150 percent.

That raises questions about meeting water and other needs at a time when the world's population is anticipated to double, reaching 12 billion people. Already, there are issues between states, including Utah and Nevada, over water rights, Huntsman said.

In the short term, the governor said the state is searching for ways over the summer to address a shortage in mechanics and other skilled workers that threatens to hobble economic development.

Huntsman was the keynote speaker at the half-day conference at the Little America Hotel that featured discussions about transportation, redevelopment incentives, tax issues, school district splits, health system reform and the collapse of municipal-owned fiber-optic networks.

Chief among those issues is health care reform, association members were told. Health care, both paying for it and accessing it, affects every single resident and will require the deepest grassroots involvement to fix the system, Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara told the group. If left alone, in less than 20 years the price of medical insurance premiums will amount to more than the average Utah household income, he said.

He encouraged involvement and participation of the taxpayers association and all Utah residents in a health care system reformation now under way. Taxpayer and citizen input is not only welcome but vital if the effort has any hope of succeeding, he said.

Contributing: James Thalman

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