SALT LAKE CITY — Envision Utah President/CEO Robert Grow didn't mince his comments to state legislators at an interim committee meeting Wednesday about what's at stake, economically speaking, in the quest to plan for ongoing explosive growth in and around the Wasatch Front's Point of the Mountain area.
Tens of thousands of new, high-paying jobs and billions in state revenues.
"The national consulting team we worked with made these projections that, if we do things right, we would end up with, by 2050, 150,000 additional high-end, innovation jobs in the state that would otherwise not come," Grow said.
"And those jobs would pay on average about $40,000 (a year) more than the average incomes of the state."
The same consultants projected the state would harvest about $8 billion in additional revenues from those new jobs, and that's just looking at personal income tax generated by those workers over the next 33 years, Grow also noted to members of the Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee.
Grow was equally blunt in describing alternate scenarios.
"If we fail, those 150,000 jobs are going to go somewhere else," Grow said. "Getting this right means a lot, but we have to do it to attain these results."
Grow's organization has been coordinating studies and outreach for the Point of the Mountain Development Commission since its legislative inception. Utah lawmakers tasked the body with formulating the best path forward for the development of 20,000 acres of unused and under-utilized property disbursed throughout southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County, including the 700-acre site of the Utah State Prison in Draper.
The first two phases of the project focused on gathering public and stakeholder input and then assembling "preferred scenarios" for that redevelopment to give the state its best economic, and quality of life, outcomes as the population continues its steep increases in those areas. Included in the Phase Two scenario presentations, released in January, were some ballpark figures on costs associated with achieving those development goals.
How to pay for it all will be the focus the next phase of the commission's work and the body's co-chairman, Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, emphasized that transit and transportation improvements called for under the commission's best-case scenarios represent the lion's share of public costs, and the numbers are sizeable.
"In Phase 3, we'll be looking at how do we finance the infrastructure in the development study area, which is going to be significant," Snow said. "I cannot underscore enough the portion that relates to transportation funding."
Snow's underscoring references the estimated $3.7 billion in local, and $7.7 billion in regional, transportation and transit infrastructure investment that was called for in the preferred scenarios approved by the commission. At an event last month to kick off a massive, $430 million expansion of I-15 right in the heart of the Point of the Mountain study area near Lehi, Gov. Gary Herbert said even though there are currently no public transit projects funded or underway, more state funding would be going that direction.
"I think what we need to do is invest strategically in all our transportation systems, that would include mass transit," Herbert said. "We’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars and we’ll spend additional hundreds of millions of dollars continuing on mass transit. We’re not going to stop, it will be a matter of both."
What those funding streams might be remains to be identified but at the same event, Herbert said he would be hesitant to bond for transit projects, as the Legislature opted to do for a $1 billion transportation funding package in the 2017 legislative session. However, changes made in the recent session reworking the governance structure of the Utah Transit Authority could make it easier for lawmakers to push funding in that direction, according to Herbert.
"(Now) we can take our typical transportation fund and expand it beyond just roads, highways and byways into, in fact, mass transit," Herbert said. "That’s the first time we’ve been able to take money from one bucket and put it into another bucket.44 comments on this story
"With this new governance structure, I think you're going to see very strategic investments and continuing to make sure we have optimal benefit for transportation."
Under another piece of legislation passed in the 2018, a new, 11-member state land authority will oversee the revamp of the Draper prison site. Work on the new prison, just west of Salt Lake City, is underway and it's expected that facility will be opened in 2021.
Snow said he expects the appointments to that body to be completed in the next few weeks and its work to begin shortly after the board is seated.