Salt Lake Chamber president talks about fixing shortages in housing, labor and water in Utah

Jan 24, 2023, 6:00 PM

A “now hiring” sign is pictured at Salt Lake Running Company in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. ...

A “now hiring” sign is pictured at Salt Lake Running Company in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News )

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News )

SALT LAKE CITY — Derek Miller, the president and CEO of Salt Lake Chamber, explains how Utah is facing a series of shortages — from water to labor to housing — that require unity from the Utah Legislature and businesses to find solutions.

He joins Inside Sources guest hosts Derek Brown and Leah Murray to discuss his opinion piece in the Deseret News:

Opinion: Utah is facing a lot of shortages. Good policy could fix them

Housing shortage 

Miller said demand for housing is high and the supply of homes is low, and that is driving up prices. 

“We are focused as a chamber, as a business association, on what can we do to remove the barriers and some of the things that are unnecessarily adding costs to homes.

“We are just at a point right now where we can’t have some city saying, ‘We don’t want multifamily housing in our town or in our city,” he said. 

“So if a city has kind of dug in its heels on the nimbyism [not in my backyard-ism] aspect that you talked about, how do you persuade them to come together with you to see the greater good?” Leah asked.

“There are incentives that the Legislature could give to a community to provide more affordable housing, but there also may need to be a stick where there are some determents that they don’t want to have if they’re not willing to provide this kind of housing,” Miller said.

He added the chamber supports additional funding for homeless resources, but those dollars must be matched with enforcement of existing laws.

Worker shortage

“So you cite in your article that we’ve had one of the most severe worker shortages in the nation. How do you meet that challenge?” Leah asked.

Miller said Utah has the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.1%. For Utah businesses, their No. 1 challenge is a shortage of workers.

One of those barriers to entering the workforce is the cost of childcare, he said.

“The report we released showed that almost $600 per month, per household is spent on childcare,” Miller said. “The chamber has for a long time advocated for immigration reform to increase the opportunity for lawful legal immigration.”

Water shortage

“Then the third one — seems like everyone is talking about — which is water. How do you fix that? What is the business community doing? What do they have on their agenda to try to address that challenge?” Leah asked.

Miller said conserving water is no longer enough. And tearing out the grass strip in front of homes is not going to solve the problem, either.

“But we also need to have a very serious — even though it is a very difficult conversation — about where the majority of our water is being used in Utah. And once we understand those facts and where the majority of water is being used, it will  lead us to the right decisions and the right solutions,” Miller said.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard on weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Related reading:

Here are the top 3 most impacted industries of the labor shortage

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Salt Lake Chamber president talks about fixing shortages in housing, labor and water in Utah