Blog Post

Insight: Utah’s Economic Commonwealth

Originally published in Utah Business

Prominent Utah historian, Thomas Alexander wrote the Beehive State’s official history titled Utah, the Right Place, as part of Utah’s centennial celebration in 1996. Mr. Alexander, who is now a professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, specializes in western US history and frequently writes about economic themes. He coined the term “economic commonwealth” in describing Utah’s diversifying and evolving economy since 1980 and I think Mr. Alexander got it right.

While we typically think of a commonwealth as a US state (there are four of them) or the British Empire, the term dates back to the 15th century. The term describes a community founded for the public good and connotes a coming together of people to promote the group’s well-being.

In economic parlance, it represents an economy that is diverse, self-sufficient, and independent. It’s an economy that supports the general welfare, controls its destiny, and provides well for its citizenry. The Utah economy today is an economic commonwealth.

A HISTORY OF UTAH’S ECONOMIC ERAS

It hasn’t always been this way. From 1847, when the pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley, the economy was ruled by a theocracy. Mr. Alexander called this economic era the “Mormon Kingdom.” It lasted until the turn of the 20th century. During this period, newcomers settled the territory before Utah became a state in 1896.

By the