Blog Post

Insight: Public Asset Development in Utah

By: Max Backlund and Dejan Eskic

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the authors 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™.

Public finance is one of those topics that few people ever plan to research, but here we are writing a blog post about it. And, here you are reading a blog post about it. So, before you read too far along and become enraptured by the idea of increasing non-tax revenues, let’s take a minute to recognize that our goal with this post is to provide you with an important, but necessarily limited, insight into a very complicated topic.

Public asset development has been an emerging financial strategy in Utah for a few years, with examples that range from arts and entertainment districts to affordable housing to business parks. This is, in part, due to the work of Dag Detter and Stephen Fölster, who published The Public Wealth of Cities in 2017. This book is dedicated to the idea that public organizations, like cities, school districts, and universities, can grow their revenues without raising taxes or increasing public debts.[i] Many public organizations in Utah are already doing some form of asset management and development. Now, there is a growing push for a more coordinated approach for both the internal functions of these organizations and for the external partnerships between public and private entities.

Public asset development involves three steps: first create an inventory, second, analyze the assets and third, create a management or development plan.

  1. Create an asset inventory

There are different types of assets, but the initial inventory should focus on assets that generate, or could generate, non-tax revenues.[ii] These could includ