This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The most typical story about Utah's air quality and economic development goes something like this: "A company or employee was looking to relocate along the Wasatch Front, but decided to go elsewhere partly because of our air quality challenges."
I can't disagree with concerns about our air quality and its effect on business recruitment, but it's time to change this narrative and highlight how Utah companies are helping to improve our air and grow our economy.
Indeed, clean air plays a crucial role in a company's decision to locate here. That's why changing the narrative about the relationship between Utah's air quality and economic development begins with shifting the focus from companies and employees that don't choose Utah, to the businesses and employees that do.
Businesses throughout the state, both large and small, have stepped up to take responsibility for the emissions they release and have worked hard to engage employees in the process. Many companies do this by investing in vehicles with cleaner fuels, creating no-idling policies and improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. They also encourage participation in voluntary actions to reduce emissions like carpooling, using public transit and teleworking.
For example, Adobe coordinates a company-wide "Clear the Air Challenge" each winter by inviting all employees to track their public transit, carpool, vanpool or telecommuting activities. By doing so, employees can get free lunch vouchers and other small prizes to help incentivize the use of clean air commuting choices. Adobe also provides educational opportunities during work hours for their employees to learn about Utah's unique air quality challenges during the winter inversion season.
Geneva Rock is another leader in business efforts to improve Utah's air quality. The company recently purchased 25 natural gas (CNG) cement trucks and a CNG fueling station as part of a $30 million initiative to help improve Utah's air. Beyond focusing on vehicle emissions, building owners and managers continue to proactively address area source emissions as a contributor to our air quality challenges. By taking voluntary steps to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, business leaders are helping to further Utah's economy and strengthen our business environment.
Besides highlighting our engaged business community and employees who take responsibility to improve Utah's air, changing the narrative also requires policymakers to think critically and proactively about how to best address our air quality challenges. This type of legislative action has already taken place. For example, expanding the uses of our Industrial Assistance Fund to help Utah companies purchase and install air quality control technology has been very successful. The key to this success remains the partnerships between the governor, Legislature, economic development and business communities to advance both our state's economic development and air quality efforts.
In addition to several noteworthy legislative proposals as well as the actions and investments by businesses, the state has a meaningful opportunity to address our air quality challenges with the more than $32 million in settlement money. Decision makers should ensure these funds move the needle to improve Utah's air quality through mitigation projects that can make a material difference in cleaning our air. A specific example would be modernizing both our school and transit bus fleets and associated facilities, which have the potential to significantly offset emissions.
Business recruitment is essential to Utah's continued economic success, however, when sharing the story of Utah's air quality and economic development, only focusing on recruitment misses the mark. It's time to broaden that narrative and focus on highlighting Utah's engaged business community and the voluntary actions they implement to clean our air, as well as supporting proactive policy solutions that promote cleaner vehicles, expand access to transit, support funding and research for air quality and minimize small business costs. This new narrative is what will positively impact Utah's business environment and economic prosperity for years to come.
Jake Boyer is president and CEO of The Boyer Company and Economic Development Chair for the Salt Lake Chamber.