This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In Utah, we address challenges together with an approach that's been called "the Utah way." Our local and state leaders from the business, nonprofit, public and private sectors took that approach with the Utah Compact in 2010. The compact promoted common-sense steps to immigration reform in a way that acknowledges the legal, humanitarian, public-safety and economic aspects of immigration in Utah.
We recognize the critical importance of immigration reform at the federal level. We understand the need to encourage legal immigration and to recognize at the same time that many immigrants, including naturalized citizens, already call Utah home. They are families, homeowners, entrepreneurs, taxpayers and neighbors. Welcoming them and their many contributions benefits our community.
That is why we are proud to once again be at the forefront of the discussion on immigration. In March, our region came together to launch the Welcoming Salt Lake Task Force on New Americans. Our group, which includes more than 75 business, government and community leaders, has spent the past five months developing ideas to make our region more attractive, welcoming and globally competitive for international talent and business.
Studies show the extent of immigrants' many contributions to our economy. A report issued in March by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Salt Lake Chamber and Salt Lake County shows the county's immigrants hold more than $2 billion in spending power that can go directly back into our regional economy through consumer spending. These community members shop at local businesses, boost the local housing market and help fuel our economic growth. Salt Lake County is home to nearly 7,000 immigrant-owned businesses, which generate $145 million in business income each year. These businesses, including everything from restaurants and grocery stories to engineering and tech companies, provide jobs and add vibrancy and cultural diversity to our area.
Utah is a hub where many languages are spoken and where we celebrate the traditions and cultures from around the world. We want to continue our tradition of welcoming all communities to Salt Lake. The Welcoming Salt Lake Task Force on New Americans is working on strategies to help navigate bureaucratic red tape, help more residents become U.S. citizens, promote immigrant entrepreneurship and grow Utah companies by harnessing the skills of new Americans.
In the next month, Salt Lake County will be announcing multiple opportunities for the public to comment on the recommended strategies. Once implemented, those strategies will not only build upon our strengths as a welcoming community, but will also open opportunities for success in the global economy.
Welcoming new arrivals is ingrained in our Utah identity. Our welcoming nature is a source of strength and a key part of our competitive advantage. The Welcoming Salt Lake Task Force on New Americans ensures that this tradition will continue and that Salt Lake will remain a place where people of all backgrounds thrive and succeed.
Ben McAdams is mayor of Salt Lake County. Lane Beattie is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. Dinesh Patel is a venture capitalist and philanthropist. They are co-chairs of the Welcoming Salt Lake Task Force on New Americans.