In a strong economy, the battle for top talent gets fierce. As every Utahn who wants a job can find a job, businesses still struggle to find the qualified workers they need to grow as quickly as they would like. Even with Utah’s economy firing on all cylinders, there are steps we can and should take to reach new levels of prosperity. A top priority for policymakers should be reforming our broken immigration system to allow our businesses to attract the world’s most talented workers.
Last week, I was proud to join a group of business, faith and community leaders who reaffirmed their call for comprehensive immigration reform that adheres to the principles of the Utah Compact. The principles of that document — first established in 2010 and considered even more relevant today — take a complex issue that sparks passion on both ends of the political spectrum and elevates the discussion to ensure policymakers consider the profound impact their decisions will have across our community. Among those concerns addressed by the principles of the Compact is the economy. Utah has, is and will continue to excel economically because we properly apply sound, pragmatic principles in business and governance, and that is exactly what we find in the Utah Compact.
Since moving to Utah from Washington, D.C. last fall, I have heard the assertion that Utah is becoming not just the crossroads of the West but the crossroads of the world. I think that can and should be true. To make it so, Utah must be known globally as a hub of business and investment. We are making tremendous progress, and I feel strongly that Utah must continue to stand for immigration policies that protect our reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state that is eager to compete and win in the global marketplace.
Immigrants help to fill jobs in key industries across the state, jobs we need to sustain our growth. From construction and tourism to scientific research and technology, foreign-born workers have unique talents and skill sets that spur innovation and create jobs for Utahns. These workers provide a critical, competitive advantage in a highly competitive global market.
As immigrants have found a new home in Utah, they have contributed greatly to our state’s prosperity. According to new data from New American Economy, immigrant-owned firms in Utah employ more than 38,000 Utahns and generate revenues in excess of $6.3 billion annually. Utah’s immigrants contributed $1 billion in federal taxes and $534.6 million in state and local taxes in 2017, and held $5.3 billion in spending power, which leads to increased revenues for businesses across the state. If you want to gather a snapshot on how Utah has been successful recently, you’ll find immigrants play a key role.
Since the Utah Compact was introduced nearly a decade ago, very little if any progress has been made toward repairing our broken immigration system. The issue has remained a political football. But if policymakers want to take a strong economy to the next level, they should start by working together to craft immigration policy that attracts the world’s hardest and most skilled workers to the land of opportunity while also protecting our borders. The Utah Compact clearly shows how these and other objectives of effective immigration policy are not mutually exclusive.
It’s remarkable that everyone who wants a job in our state can find employment. Just imagine if every business that wanted to create a job could find someone with the right skills and the desire to fill it.