A Jobs & Economic Development Blueprint For a Great American City

Salt Lake City is booming and prospering like never before. We have weathered the Great Recession and are coming out on top. Salt Lake is home to a booming downtown, is a desirable destination for businesses, has record levels of retail sales, boasts a thriving dining and entertainment scene, and is nationally recognized for its success on many fronts..

Eight years ago, as Mayor Becker first entered office, the economic story was much different. Our Main Street was boarded up and we were competing with other cities along the Wasatch Front for major community assets. Today, we’re the home of major outposts of Goldman Sachs, EA Games, Ancestry.com, Workday, Disney, and Reddit. We lifted outdated restrictions on downtown restaurants and bars with dramatic results – 14 new restaurants have opened in the last year alone. Our downtown is more walkable and we revamped our parking systems in response to public comment. Thanks in large part to Mayor Becker’s policies, Salt Lake City has become a flourishing gathering place for the entire region.

It’s clear that Utah’s capital city is experiencing a renaissance and news media and business organizations across the nation are taking notice. Over the last few years, Salt Lake City has received national recognition and made many Top 10 Lists, including:

  • #1 City for Start Ups [Entrepreneur Magazine]
  • Best Performing Cities [Pew Research Center]
  • The Next National Hot Spot [Forbes]
  • Top 10 Best Downtowns [Livability]
  • Best U.S. cities to get a job in 2015 (#4) [CBSNEWS]
  • Healthiest Places in America 2015 (#5) [Nerd Wallet]
  • Listed on the 5 Up-and-Coming U.S. Tourism Cities 2015 [Huffington Post]
  • Leading choice of where college graduates chose to live in 2014 [New York Times]
  • Zions Bank Ranked Among the 10 Best Banks of 2015 [Go Banking Rates]
  • #1 in Job Creation 2015” [Gallup]
  • Hottest real estate markets 2015 – [Fortune]
  • Ranked 4th nationally in 2015 for great cities to own a car [Salt Lake Tribune]
  • 10 Mayors to Watch 2015 – [Housing Finance]

Mayor Becker’s Economic Accomplishments

Over the past seven and a half years, Mayor Becker and his Administration have made great strides to create a thriving economy and job opportunities for Salt Lake City residents:

  • Businesses in Downtown:
    • In 2010, Goldman Sachs moved to downtown Salt Lake City and it is now the financial firm’s 4th largest office globally and 2nd largest office in the Americas. It has brought over 1,800 jobs to the area and is expecting more hires in the future.
    • Electronic Arts opened an office here in 2010 and now has over 100 employees. EA Salt Lake City continues to grow and has just completed a studio expansion for their mobile games division.
    • Ancestry.com, Workday, Neumont University, and more have opened significant locations in downtown.
    • This year, Google Fiber announced it is coming to Salt Lake City and has started construction.
  • Sugarhouse Business District, Rio Grande Station Center, and Regent Street: Salt Lake City’s business districts are seeing exceptional growth and development. Before Mayor Becker came into office, Sugar House was known for the gaping Sugar Hole. Now, businesses are moving in, and the area has seen a boom in housing and business development, much of it encouraged by the City’s Redevelopment Agency. Just this year, Mayor Becker announced plans for a major new development near Pioneer Park and the Rio Grande Depot that will create a new neighborhood called Station Center. The area will contain a mixture of housing, offices, and small businesses. Additionally, one of Salt Lake City’s most historic streets, Regent Street, is being transformed into an exciting entertainment corridor linking City Creek Center to the Gallivan Center. With the new Eccles Theater as an anchor, the renovations will bring retail shops, restaurants, and a public plaza that will connect Regent to Main Street and once again bring the street to life.
  • SLC Foreign Trade Zone: Foreign Trade Zones help connect local businesses to international markets, lower operating costs, and create tax incentives to bring good and services through Salt Lake City. In 2015, Red Wing Shoes became one of the first companies in 20 years to operate an FTZ, and another one is on its way. In addition, Salt Lake City can proudly claim to be the “Crossroads of the West”. With its unique location close to so many western U.S. markets, it is a hub for air, ground, and rail distribution services. Salt Lake City International Airport is within a 2½ hour flight of half the population of the United States and ranks as the 22nd busiest airport in the country.
  • Planning Process Improvement: Since coming to office, Mayor Becker has streamlined planning and zoning processes, including significantly lowering the time it takes to process and receive a permit. Here are some examples of how much time has been cut from key processes to lower construction and zoning barriers and encourage economic development and new businesses.
    • Conditional uses – 124 days to 59 days
    • Planned developments – 126 days to 77 days
    • Special exceptions – 60 days to 33 days
    • Subdivisions – 93 days to 70 days
    • Administrative Historic Approvals – 3.7 days to <1 day
    • Zoning Amendments – 501 days to 203 days
  • Revolving Loan Fund: This fund stimulates business development and expansion, encourages private investment, promotes economic development, and enhances neighborhood vitality. Mayor Becker revitalized this tool and opened up low-interest loans to businesses. In fact, Salt Lake City has approved over $2.6 million in loans to local, independent businesses in 2015 alone – almost double any previous year in the City’s history. These loans are available for:
    • New and existing businesses
    • Maintaining and growing a business
    • Businesses interested in relocating to SLC
    • Businesses impacted by road construction
    • Purchase of property for a business
    • Energy-efficient equipment upgrades and building retrofits
  • The Visitor Economy: Each year, thousands of business and personal travelers come to our city to experience our amazing quality of life. Over the last seven years, Mayor Becker has focused on creating a more friendly environment for out-of-town visitors coming to Salt Lake City , including:
    • Normalizing Salt Lake City’s liquor laws, including eliminating the archaic two-per-block-face requirements;
    • Establishing a Signature Events Fund;
    • Working with ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to expand taxi and transportation options;
    • Improving standards for our taxi cabs;
    • Working with the Utah Transit Agency to build a TRAX light rail line to the Airport, helping to mitigate construction impacts to local businesses, and creating new zoning rules to encourage transit-oriented development;
    • Raising our national profile and establishing a reputation as a tourism destination; and
    • Working with Salt Lake County and state officials develop a large convention hotel near the Salt Palace.
  • Permits, Building Services and “One-Stop-Shop” for Construction and Development: From 2009 to 2012, the Salt Lake City Planning Division worked to streamline its processes and significantly reduced the processing time required for all permit classifications. Additionally, Salt Lake City established the “One-Stop-Shop” for Building and Development customers. This streamlined service meant that four of the six major departments are all in one room and able to assist customers. This has helped customers identify issues early in the process, usually before expensive and costly designs and plans are produced. The process is also now largely conduced completely online, with roughly 65 percent of the customers never needing to come into the City. Taken together, Salt Lake City is now processing an all-time high number of building permits in a faster, more efficient timeline than ever before.
  • Small Business: Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create jobs, keep money in the local economy, and develop a unique sense of character and vibrancy in our City. As a former small-business owner, Mayor Becker understands the needs of these companies, and Salt Lake City has remained committed to supporting their development by:
    • Creating a “Navigator” position that helps small-business owners find their way through City and government processes and issues;
    • Expanding the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund, and allowing it to support the purchase of property so that businesses can stay in Salt Lake City;
    • Providing grants to neighborhood business districts for marketing, advertising, and special events;
    • Encouraging the development of new neighborhood business nodes, such as Central Ninth and North Temple River District (NoTe), through the RDA and other opportunities; and,
    • Promoting local entrepreneurs through the Mayor’s Office Kickstarter page.

Mayor Becker’s Blueprint for Economic Prosperity

  1. Develop the Inland Port: A Vision for the Northwest Quadrant. Salt Lake City is uniquely positioned as the Crossroads of the West. Here is where Interstates 15 and 80 intersect, where major rail lines converge, and where hundreds of flights a day pass through Salt Lake City International Airport. If a company or an individual is moving goods to or from the west coast, chances are they will travel through our city. Salt Lake can leverage this position and make us the premier light-industrial, manufacturing, trans-shipping and warehousing location in the Intermountain West. As online sales continue to rise, companies like Amazon.com, Ebay, Vistaprint, and more are looking for central locations where they can produce goods and ship them to the end user quickly. Our geographic position, infrastructure, and expansion potential in the City’s Northwest Quadrant give us a competitive advantage as we become the leading inland port serving the intermountain region and western United States.
  1. Establish the Economic Development Corporation of Salt Lake City. The Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU), a public/private partnership between the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the business community, has had phenomenal success in building relationships and attracting businesses to Salt Lake City and Utah. Over the last seven years, Mayor Becker has worked to expand the City’s relationship with EDCU; to further maximize the City’s opportunities, the Mayor proposes to build on this model to create an Economic Development Corporation of Salt Lake City. Whether it is housed in an existing organization or set up as an independent entity, this group will serve as a connecting entity between businesses seeking to locate in Salt Lake City and our many successful business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Utah Local First, Downtown Alliance, Vest Pocket Business Coalition, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and others.                                     
  1. Complete the Net Zero Airport Redevelopment. Salt Lake City has the opportunity to build the nation’s first “net zero energy” airport terminal, just as we built the nation’s first net zero public safety building in 2013. Each year, more than 20 million people fly through the Salt Lake City International Airport. To accommodate growth and replace aging facilities, the City broke ground last year on a $1.8 billion project to completely rebuild the airport’s terminal, concourses, parking garage and other structures. Not only will the three-story terminal and linear concourse be designed to highlight Utah’s beauty, significant efforts will be made to ensure the building is as energy efficient as possible. Mayor Becker is pushing the project’s managers and architects to achieve net zero status, meaning enough renewable energy will be generated on site to power the terminal. The redevelopment of the airport will keep Salt Lake City and the rest of the state connected to the world and is a crucial aspect to our City’s economic growth. What’s more, Mayor Becker’s relationships and experience is vital to keeping Salt Lake City a major airline hub and to finishing this project on time and on budget.
  1. Cultivate existing and new “Soloprenuers”. Solo, or contract, employment is a booming business area. These are innovative one- or two-person small businesses that build websites, oversee data, provide professional services, are graphic designers, and so on. Impact Hub, Church and State and Sustainable Start-ups are just a few local examples of co-working spaces from which many of these small businesses operate. Mayor Becker will leverage and support this new creative class by making it easier for them to register a business and to provide opportunities to help them grow. These steps include:
  • Bundling and developing a marketing strategy for Salt Lake City’s Small Business Services so new entrepreneurs can easily find and identify the many resources the City is already offering;
  • Helping small businesses manage their licensing and other paperwork online, without the need to come into City Hall. Thanks to Mayor Becker, the Obama Administration recently awarded Salt Lake City a $50,000 grant to streamline the business licensing process. This will be especially helpful for home-based businesses, which make up 35% of all business licensees;
  • Promoting the White House TechHire Initiative that creates mentorships, networks, and other opportunities for aspiring technology entrepreneurs; and
  • Developing a matching grant program that gives small-business incubators in Salt Lake City more capacity to do their work.
  1. Implement EnterpriseSLC. Mayor Becker’s Community and Economic Development Department has just completed a comprehensive survey of the business community called EnterpriseSLC. We brought together top business leaders and thinkers to chart a path forward for the future of Salt Lake City’s economic development. Mayor Becker is committed leverage this work and complete the recommendations of the EnterpriseSLC effort, including:
  • Conducting a complete review of all small-business-related city ordinances and policies, make sure they are necessary, and work with City Council to remove those that are not;
  • Enhancing major downtown venues such as the Energy Solutions Arena; and
  • Optimizing the use of tools such as Economic Development Areas, Community Development Areas, Foreign Trade Zones, and Special Assessment Areas to create economic development opportunities.
  1. Build on the Cultural Core. When Mayor Becker was first elected, Salt Lake City was competing with Sandy to build a theater large enough to host touring Broadway shows and similar events. Today, the Eccles Theater is nearing completion on Main Street, thanks to unprecedented partnerships and investment from the public and private sectors. Mayor Becker will build on an already strong foundation to further define downtown Salt Lake City as the cultural core of our state and region by:
  • Supporting existing and new venues through new partnerships with Salt Lake County and its Center for the Fine Arts;
  • Leveraging public investment in the Eccles Theater to bring millions in private development to the Regent Street corridor; and
  • Expanding the already successful “Signature Events Fund” to support additional major public events in Downtown Salt Lake City.
  1. Expand the “Buy Your Building” Initiative. To keep Salt Lake City moving forward, Mayor Becker proposes expanding the Revolving Loan Fund by partnering with lending institutions to assist local businesses in acquiring their buildings. This will support the longevity of our neighborhood commercial districts and ensure they remain the creative and unique places we love.