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Salt Lake County Regional Development News

New Tool to Help SLCo Municipalities Assess COVID-19’s Economic Impact

July 07, 2020

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SALT LAKE COUNTY — In March, seemingly a lifetime ago, the community was just responding to the increasing public health risk of COVID-19. As efforts to limit the spread were put into place to keep residents safe, Salt Lake County was also concerned about understanding how COVID-19 would affect other areas of life.

The Salt Lake County Economic Impact Working Group was formed that same month with the goal to understand and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. While there are dozens of economic indicators on a federal and state level, assessing local economic impacts on a monthly basis proved to be more difficult. And yet, local economic indicators are crucial to fiscal staff and elected leaders making data-driven decisions.

Info Portal's Model of Fiscal Impact

The Economic Impact Information Portal was created to address that gap after surveying cities in the valley. The tool provides targeted support to municipalities by increasing accessibility to local data and visualizing indicators, like monthly sales tax disbursements, Class B & C Road Funds, and a model of fiscal impact.

The new economic tool can be accessed at






Multiple municipalities were interested in seeing and comparing the economic downturns of the Great Recession to the current time of COVID-19; a dashboard visualizing taxable sales from 2006-2020 allow

"Statewide economic impact estimates exist, but cities told us that these statewide estimates didn't match the local context for many sectors,” said Saskia DeVries, a Data and Performance Analyst for the Office of Data and Innovation. “For instance, some tourism-dependent towns expect much sharper declines in accommodations and food service sales. We built an interactive model to allow the experts in these local economies, the municipal fiscal analysts, to adjust the impact estimates themselves."

Screenshot of the Economic Info Portal showing taxable sales

For example, a dashboard visualizes historic taxable sales comparing 2019 and 2020, showing decreases in multiple major business NAICS categories beginning with the onslaught of COVID-19 cases in Utah. However, it also shows that some industries saw increases – food and beverage stores, online retailers and building and gardening suppliers for home improvement.

Another interesting finding gathered from the visualizations is Magna Township’s unusually large increase in taxable sales in March and continuing into April, while other municipalities saw decreases. Construction jumped significantly, and might be put into context when one recalls Utah’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Magna the hardest.

A dashboard showing taxable sales in Magna during March 2020.

These new ways to interact with local data are possible because of the swift collaboration of multiple key agencies in the state with the Salt Lake County Office of Regional Development and Office of Data & Innovation, including: the Utah State Tax Commission, Utah Department of Transportation, Department of Workforce Services, Utah League of Cities and Towns and others.

Salt Lake County anticipates adding new data sets throughout COVID-19 economic recovery efforts as it continues to innovate with partners to meet the needs of the valley. This tool can also increase residents’ access and understanding of important data sets used by local governments.

Salt Lake County approves new Wasatch Canyons General Plan crafted with key Utah partners to protect and manage beloved areas

June 09, 2020

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SALT LAKE COUNTY – An updated Wasatch Canyons General Plan, presented to the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday, was approved 7-1 in a vote, and will be formally adopted June 16. This process was facilitated by the Planning and Transportation department in the Office of Regional Development.

“The Wasatch Canyons are one of the most defining features of the Salt Lake Valley,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “The preservation of this precious resource is a top priority. I am excited to implement the vision and strategies in this plan to protect the solitude, wildlife, scenery, water quality, and best snow on earth, that our canyons provide.”

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Salt Lake County Regional Planning staff and partners have worked on an update the Wasatch Canyons General Plan for three years, with the planning process dating back to the summer of 2017. This robust process involved significant public and stakeholder involvement, including input from local governmental entities, canyon visitors and property owners.

Data was gathered through online surveys, public meetings, interviews, work sessions and community events, such as open houses and educational forums. The County hosted at least three public hearings, 10 open houses, nine educational forums and other community events. Key partners – including nonprofits, local municipalities, transportation agencies and community councils  ̶  were consulted to consider a variety of perspectives.

Through this collaboration, a common vision was created, and subsequent goals and strategies were identified to achieve the vision. The newly adopted plan will replace the 1989 Wasatch Canyons Master Plan for Parleys, Mill Creek, Big Cottonwood, associated unincorporated foothills and Little Cottonwood – excluding the Town of Alta.SLCo Wasatch Canyons 1989 vs 2020.png

“Big Cottonwood Canyon Community Council (BCCA) is grateful to the staff and consultants who have included our community in this General Plan update every step of the way,” said Barbara Cameron, chair for BCCA. “It is a comprehensive plan for our future, and we look forward to helping implement its suggestions and guidelines.”

Each year the canyons receive millions of visits for recreation, employment and tourism. These precious resources are important to residents and visitors alike. As the County’s million-plus population grows, it is critical to plan for and preserve our canyons so they can be enjoyed by current and future generations.

Review the Wasatch Canyons General Plan at

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.

Automation - Fastest Growing Occupations.PNG

“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
Employee Values Recommendations.png

View and share the two-part research and its summary at

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.

Most Comfortable - Clothing Retailers.png

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.