Going Global: Advancing Salt Lake through trade and investment

July 19, 2015 –International trade can be a powerful engine for economic growth, better-paying jobs and reducing poverty. Technology has both made the world smaller and raised the competitive stakes. However, Salt Lake County has great potential to harness international demand and deliver locally produced goods and services globally and at the same time expand its metro economy and create jobs.

Salt Lake County already has many favorable features, such as modern and efficient transportation infrastructure and a well-educated, multi-lingual workforce. It stands out as having a high concentration of advanced industries—the businesses that led the U.S. out of the Great Recession and into economic recovery. How Utah Became the Next Silicon Valley was the title of a recent article in the New Yorker magazine (Feb. 2015), highlighting the state's super-sector employment from software businesses, medical device manufacturers and makes of aerospace products. Advanced industries, according to a report from the Brookings Institution, produce $2.7 trillion in value added annually—17 percent of all U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That is more than any other sector, including healthcare, finance or real estate. Overall, advanced industries account for more than one in 10 jobs in 25 percent of America's major metro areas.

Like many other growing metropolitan areas, Salt Lake County has a vested interest in remaining competitive in the international marketplace. According to information released by the Business Roundtable, customers in 204 countries already buy Utah-made goods and services, including billions of dollars in annual exports to top markets like Hong Kong, China and Canada. But there's a lot of room to grow. Salt Lake County is taking major steps, both internationally and domestically, to elevate the region's economic development strategy, including helping more small and medium-sized businesses become exporters. Surveys show that many Salt Lake businesses are not aware of the export services that exist. While a few large companies have access to expertise and information, many small and medium-sized companies don't know how to get started.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert recently completed a trade mission to Western Europe, on behalf of the state. Representing Salt Lake County as mayor, I traveled to Australia for the Asia-Pacific Cities Summit with the Global Cities Initiative, a five-year joint project of Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. The 100 largest metropolitan economies in the Asia-Pacific region in 2014 accounted for nearly 30 percent of global GDP growth. By 2030, 66 percent of the global middle class is projected to be living in that region—future customers for Salt Lake County companies. By attending this international summit, I took a step towards positioning the county as both a trade and foreign direct investment destination. The conference also assisted with international networking and provided meetings to discuss trade best practices and policy innovation with some of the best and brightest global economic development practitioners in the world.

This summer—with help from our partners World Trade Center Utah, EDCUtah and Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED)--- Salt Lake County will continue the trade and investment conversation by hosting a Global Cities Initiative forum. The event, which will take place July 21-22, will highlight how the region is strengthening its global competitiveness by expanding exports and international investment, helping inform local businesses about their opportunities. Attendees will include an estimated 200 business, civic, philanthropic and senior government leaders from throughout our area.

Since its debut on the world stage as the host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Salt Lake is a place of interest to the international community. We're seizing the moment and stepping up to the challenge of assisting our businesses in their drive to compete and by doing so, leading the way to a brighter economic future. The rest of the country should take note of the excitement, energy and enthusiasm Salt Lake displays, as it embraces markets around the world and uses it as a catalyst for our economic prosperity.

Ben McAdams is Salt Lake County mayor; Craig Zollinger is JPMorgan Chase's President and Chief Executive Officer for Utah.