The ‘Utah 2020 trifecta’ could shape the state’s economy for decades to come

There are three major projects on the horizon that will shape Utah’s future for several decades, and they all come to a head in 2020.

The state prison begins moving to the new location in Salt Lake City, and leaders will have to decide what to do with the 700 acres the old facility sat on at the Point of the Mountain. The New Salt Lake City International airport opens that year, and the new inland port will be under construction.

“I call it the Utah 2020 trifecta,” says Derek Miller who is poised to become the new head of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. “Any state would be lucky to have any one of those projects. If we don’t get this right, we will have missed a once in a generation opportunity.”

Miller, who currently is the president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah is shifting to the same position with the Chamber, succeeding Lane Beattie who is retiring after 15 years leading Utah’s largest business organization.

Miller says as he prepares to take over the Chamber, he is focused on keeping Utah’s booming economy healthy. Miller is worried we may be headed toward an economic dip.

“When you look at the economic trends, we are in the largest period of recovery in our nation’s history so the economists tell us a slowdown may be on the horizon,” says Miller. “What worries me more is what’s happening on a national level. Utah’s economy will continue to do fine as long as we don’t mess things up on the national level.”

Miller says President Trump’s tariffs which have sparked a trade war with China could “mess up the good thing we have going in Utah.” 

Miller has been focused on Utah’s international trade because of his current job with the World Trade Center Utah. He says Utahns could feel some significant pain because of the trade imbroglio with China.

“Consumers are the ones who pay for tariffs. It’s essentially a tax increase in the form of these increased prices consumers will be paying,” he says.

“Who likes tariffs? It’s industries that can’t compete in a global marketplace. Why should the federal government be in the business of picking winners and losers, which is anathema to the free markets that we hold dear in Utah? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Earlier this week, China threatened tariffs on U.S. fruit and vegetables and pork. Miller says that has the potential to hit Utah agricultural producers hard.

“The president has said trade wars are good. The market doesn’t believe trade wars are good. The president has said trade wars are easy to win. There aren’t any winners in trade wars. Unfortunately, some of the losers are going to be Utah companies,” he says.

Listen to the podcast of our conversation with Derek Miller: