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Salt Lake County Regional Development News

Future of Jobs research points to industry most at risk for automation in Salt Lake County


June 03, 2020

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In the past two years economic development director Blake Thomas saw an uptick in national conversations about automation, leaving an unaddressed opportunity for its discussion on a local level in Utah.

This idea transformed into a larger conversation about what work, and the workplace, will look like in the future for Salt Lake County residents.

To answer many questions in that conversation, automation research was conducted in 2019, which can now be explored in the newly-released “Automation Brief Report 2020: Workers and Jobs in an Automated Economy.”

The Automation Brief Report discusses how automation will impact various industries present in Salt Lake County, and where data points to needed focus on facilitating transitions into new job opportunities in demand.

According to the research, an estimated 33,400 jobs in Salt Lake County have a 98-99% likelihood of becoming automated. However, we detailed 11 policy recommendations to address that unemployment.

This information is particularly important and relevant as state and local decision makers strategize economic recovery from COVID-19. Identifying policies and recommendations that aid in long-term strategic recovery, not just short-term stop gaps, will be crucial in the coming months to maintain a resilient economy in Utah post-coronavirus.

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“When we undertook this research, we were looking to improve the lives of residents and help local businesses,” Thomas said. “In light of the current crises, this research is even more important to help guide decision makers towards solutions that ensure the health, safety and economic security of our residents in a post-coronavirus economy.”

"We are working with partners to propose future actions to mitigate negative consequences of automation and COVID-19."

Policy recommendations to mitigate technological unemployment include:

  • Creation of municipal, county and state digital economy strategies
  • Creation of financial incentives for schools to create or maintain programs in top Utah Department of Workforce Services growth sectors
  • Creation of robust retraining programs for those in the workforce at high risk for displacement, as well as expansion of existing training and credentialing programs
  • Public investment in infrastructure and buildings
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View and share the two-part research and its summary at slco.org/future-of-jobs.


New Survey Illustrates Salt Lake County Residents’ Top Concerns in Engaging with Businesses During COVID-19


June 02, 2020

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SALT LAKE COUNTY  ̶  As COVID-19 health restrictions for residents and employees have changed multiple times within the past month, significant effort has gone into informing businesses of the information they need to reopen, as a greater effort takes place to retain those local operations, and ultimately restart the economy.

However, it was not yet known if consumers were ready to join businesses that were choosing to reopen, and if not, which measures would provide residents a greater sense of safety?

In early May, Salt Lake County staff dedicated to evaluating COVID-19’s regional economic impact and enabling a successful recovery commissioned a Consumer Sentiment Survey, after seeing a gap in data available on the other half of the equation: consumer behavior and attitudes.

As organizations and governments are eager to help retain businesses, consumers must feel comfortable and confident enough to engage, and businesses need to know what ways will achieve that.

This new survey of residents’ behavior conducted from May 8-16 shows respondents’ successful embrace of public health orders to flatten the curve. And one of the residents’ greatest concerns is indicated by survey data that shows 70% of Salt Lake County respondents were worried the state government and Salt Lake County Health Department will lift restrictions too quickly, compared to not lifting restrictions quickly enough, 30%.

For many residents, that concern translates into limited participation in leisure activities and with non-essential business. More than two-thirds of respondents hadn’t dined in a restaurant, gone to a gym, or visited a salon in the last month – industries that were all directly impacted by the health orders but are slowly reopening.

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“This data is critical for businesses,” Dina Blaes, director of the Office of Regional Development, said. “It includes what they need to encourage consumers to engage with them. If, for example, requiring employees to wear a mask will be safer and allay customers’ concerns, look at the data. Perhaps the most striking information from the survey is consumers remain mindful of public health issues and are watching what measures businesses are taking to address the concerns.”

A high number of those surveyed -- 81% -- said they were more likely to visit a business if those businesses were following local health and safety guidelines. When asked what local businesses could do to increase shoppers’ safety, many were in favor of sanitization. Respondents emphatically said they would feel much more or somewhat more comfortable if businesses:

  • Sanitized high touch surfaces regularly
  • Provided sanitizer in prominent locations
  • Encouraged and maintained social distancing between customers
  • Provided minimal contact and pick-up options
  • Required daily symptom checks for all employee

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This new information is being used by Salt Lake County to further data-driven decision making for public health safety, as well as in economic recovery. The survey data provides actionable insight governments, business industries and other leaders can use related to safety measures to put in place to reduce consumers’ sense of concern.

“My goal for this survey was to bring the results to economic development directors, those on our economic impact working group, industry representatives, and chamber members so that we can make a concerted, collaborative effort to understand that however ready a business may be to get the economy rolling, the consumer ultimately has to feel comfortable engaging in the economy,” Blaes said.

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The Consumer Sentiment Survey is one part in a multi-pronged approach Salt Lake County is carrying out to further COVID-19 economic recovery. Federal aid, like grants and loans, serve the need of minimizing short-term damage from closures, while efforts to engage consumers are key to the strategy of business retention. Longer-term strategies to further the resilience of Salt Lake County’s economy include policy recommendations made by Salt Lake County Economic Development in the recent release of its Future of Jobs Reports on May 28. 

View the entire report of survey data here.


Salt Lake County Awards 2 Women Entrepreneurs at WEC Utah Competition with Grants


May 27, 2020

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Salt Lake County Economic Development participated in the annual Utah Women's Entrepreneurial (digital) Conference Wednesday, May 27, where multiple businesses were selected as grant recipients.

The WEC Utah gathered nearly 100 women from across the state on Zoom to provide resources as they launch or expand their businesses. The conference is typically held as an in-person event, but organizers adapted to host it online in order to provide critical support during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Two outstanding women were chosen as recipients of Salt Lake County Economic Development's grant: Tamara Garza, owner of Mystic Salon & Spa and Najati Abdalla, owner of Namash Swahili Cuisine, both Salt Lake County businesses.

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Chef Najati is from Somalia and started her business in 2016 as a way to share her rich culture and experience with Salt Lake County. The cuisine is crafted from Somali and Kenyan family recipes. Chef Najati's goal is open a restaurant where all are welcome. To reach that dream, Namash Swahili Cuisine is sold through Spice Kitchen Incubator and many events in the valley.

The owners, who were quarter-finalists in the competition, are receiving $500. As a sponsor, the County is committed to and a supporter of women in business, especially those owned and operated by new Americans.

There were five finalists for WEC Utah grants ranging from $1,250 to $5,000. Kathy Anderson, with Little Apple's Child Care Center in Grantsville won first place. Second place went to Nailya Ragimova with Doner Kebab Express in West Jordan; third place to LaTonya Jackson with Iridescent Hair Co; fourth place to Luisa Tupou with Tupou Tusis Samoan children's books; and fifth place to Alicia Berardo with Daydreams Cakes & Pastries LLC in Salt Lake City.

The WEC Utah is planned by women from multiple local organizations, including the Women's Business Center of Utah, Utah Women's Networking Group and Mountain West Small Business Finance.