Altough Utah's economy has suffered through some difficult periods in the 1980s, the state's economic outlook is on the right track and looking brighter all the time. Gov. Norm Bangerter told the Sandy Chamber of Commerce Thursday night.
"We've turned the corner, we've bottomed-out in our economy and we're moving in the right direction," Bangerter said. "Frankly, I'm excited about the next few years in Utah because I think they're going to be good years."Speaking of the Willow Creek Country Club, Bangerter said he came into office at a time when Utah was taking some hard economic punches, such as problems in the steel, copper and oil industries. To add to the problems, Utah lacked an economic development plan. He said it took strong action to build a new economy, but through careful planning, Utah is now on the right track.
"We have increased the budget rather dramatically with the cooperation of the Legislature, and we've put together an economic development plan that I think has all the ingredients for success," he said.
Utahns have already seen the fruits of the economic labors in the 30 organizations and companies across the nation trying to attract business to the state. Companies like Delta Airlines have expanded facilities in Utah, bringing more than $20 million into the state.
Bangerter said along with the business growth in Utah, unemployment figures are the lowest in eight years, excluding 1985. Job growth is running at a pace tripling last year's rate.
The cornerstone of economic recovery is manufacturing, Bangerter said.
"The current labor market conditions are the strongest they have been in a long time, and I believe that suggests better economic times," he said.
Other economic successes can be attributed to the greater willingness of government and education circles to reform. Actions such as placing mandates on the school system to cut overhead and administration, better utilizing school buildings and implementing alternate year-round school schedules have saved the state more than $90 million in the past few years.
For the first time in years, state revenue projections are looking up and will make it possible to reduce the state's bonded indebtedness within another year.
"When I came into office we had 12 years of debt," Bangerter said. "Now we have six years of bond indebtedness, and I think that's helped us preserve our AAA bond rating in the state of Utah when only have half a dozen states enjoy that luxury."
Bangerter said the state's economy has been helped by being able to meet greater needs with fewer dollars.
State government is spending 8 percent less than four years ago, which works out to a savings of $170 million, or $100 for every man, woman and child in the state.
He said tax limitation proposals will likely be on the next election ballot, but wanted to note that while spending $170 million less than years before, the state is educating 10 percent more students, housing 65 percent more prisoners and handling a social service caseload that has grown 29 percent.
Bangerter said the economic changes that have taken place in the past four years have put Utah in a better light and encouraged support for the challenges of the future.
"I know all the people can take pride in this great state, and may we go forward into the 21st century with confidence knowing that we will pass on to our children a better world than we inherited," Bangerter said.