Opinion briefs: Governor’s race, Inland Port & Chamber advocacy

New gubernatorial candidate? A big crowd of Republicans is going to be running for governor in 2020. Here’s another name being mentioned by the Great Mentioners: Greg Miller.

The son of business and philanthropy icon Gail Miller and the late business mogul Larry Miller, Greg Miller is serious enough that he’s been talking to a lot of people and exploring the possibilities.

I assume he’s a Republican, but what if he ran as a Democrat? Or an independent? Or Utah United Party? He would be a very interesting addition to the lineup. 

Patience needed for Inland Port. A fair amount of handwringing has been occurring about the possible environmental impacts of the proposed Inland Port to be located in Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant.

As noted by Salt Lake Chamber Pres. Derek Miller, who also serves as the port authority chair, it makes no sense to draw conclusions about air quality, water issues, animal habitat, congestion and other impacts until appropriate environmental studies are undertaken, and plans are made to deal appropriately with those issues.

The Inland Port has no staff, and efforts are barely beginning. A bit of patience is required. My perception is that the proponents of the Inland Port want to do go beyond just doing it right. The opportunity here is to create the cleanest, most environmentally friendly, most sustainable, most high-tech port in the world. It is entirely possible to generate robust economic opportunity while also protecting and even enhancing air quality and the environment.

Given Utah’s rapid growth and the need for jobs, it’s clear that the Northwest Quadrant is going to be developed one way or another. I’m sure that Salt Lake City has excellent plans and would not allow haphazard development with warehouses popping up willy-nilly.

But the city, state and private sector have a great opportunity to not just produce a nice industrial development. By being visionary, working together and devoting the resources required, this can become a world-class, sustainable asset that will help power Utah’s economy for decades to come.

Miles Hansen, World Trade Center Utah president and CEO, reported to the Chamber board recently that in his trade mission travels, representatives of some of the world’s largest ports, including in China and United Arab Emirates, have approached him with high interest in the Utah inland port. They are aware of it and understand the value of a port in the U.S. interior West. They want to talk partnerships and business deals. 

Salt Lake City is the crossroads of the West – now more than ever.   

Chamber & public policy. Speaking of the Salt Lake Chamber, I’ve been impressed with how it has emerged as a public power powerhouse. Former Chamber President & CEO Lane Beattie was a former Utah Senate president, so he was naturally interested in public policy. He built the Chamber’s public policy prowess and new leader Derek Miller, a former governor’s chief of staff, plans to take it even further. New Board Chair Steve Starks (who helps run the Miller Group of Companies) also has a solid public policy background.

Like any organization, the Chamber has only so much bandwidth, so it can’t take on every issue out there. One problem with being effective is that every interest group wants you to champion their causes. The Chamber has to pick and choose the most important and impactful issues. To its credit, it has been willing to tackle societal challenges beyond just business-specific issues like taxes and regulation.

The Chamber has led campaigns for education funding, rational immigration policies, and transportation infrastructure. It doesn’t just put forth its views and hope policymakers will act. With Abby Osborne as VP of public policy & government relations, the Chamber creates coalitions, develops campaign plans, makes lists of supporters and opponents, and lobbies and advocates, encouraging members to engage their elected officials. And policymakers listen.

The Chamber has become Utah’s most powerful public policy advocacy organization.