Blog Post

Insight: Economic Development and the American Dream

By: Max Backlund

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

In simpler days, economic development meant adding new jobs and pursuing new tax revenue, but in recent years it has grown to incorporate goals like improving quality of life and upward mobility. For instance, the 2016 Strategic Plan for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) included this mission statement:

“Enhance the quality of life by increasing and diversifying Utah’s revenue base and improving employment opportunities.”[1]

In 2019, GOED revised their economic development strategy, including a much broader mission statement:

“Building on its success, Utah will elevate the lives of current and future generations through an exceptional quality of life, provide economic opportunity and upward mobility, and encourage business growth and innovation. Utah is home to attractive, healthy urban and rural communities where residents and businesses thrive, and visitors feel welcome.”[2]

This more comprehensive vision places a greater burden on economic development efforts to go beyond new jobs and wages to include upward mobility and thriving communities for current and future generations. In 2016, GOED’s plan was four pages, including the front and back covers. In 2019 the plan grew to 42 pages. This new, enhanced set of goals raises questions about the connection between upward mobility and economic development. I o