By Lane Beattie, President and CEO, Salt Lake Chamber

The Utah Legislature will convene for the 2010 General Legislative Session Monday. They will do so with the well-deserved title of “Best Managed State in the Nation.”

Utah achieved this ranking in 2008 from the Pew Center on the States because of our performance in four key areas – money, people, infrastructure and information. It is a proud honor for our state, and one that Utah has received eight times during the course of the last four governors.

But today Utah, like every other state, faces serious challenges not felt by any previous Legislature or governor.

  • State government revenues have declined by nearly a billion dollars in the past three years.
  • Nearly 90,000 Utahns are unemployed. That’s a population almost the size of Orem City.
  • School enrollment in both public and higher education is at record levels.
  • Human service caseloads are up 14% in the past year alone.
  • And we have the fastest growing population in the country.

To quote the great patriot, Thomas Paine, “These are times that try men’s souls.” As business leaders we are asking a simple question: When the Pew Center does their next grading of the states, probably in 2011, what will they see?

Will we have managed through this financial crisis in a way that propels the Utah economy to once again lead the nation?

Will we have invested in our most important business resource – our people?

Will we have developed our workforce so that Utah families can be supported by high-paying jobs?

Will we have repaired and maintained our capital assets?

Will we have controlled costs so that future taxpayers are not burdened by our decisions?

Will we pay for our fair share of capital expenditures rather than passing them on to future generations?

Will we take responsibility for our choices and be held accountable for our actions?

May I suggest that the Pew Center, when grading all 50 states next year, will be asking all of these questions and more. They will be applying the business principles that you see attached to the wall behind me to the management of state government and asking, “Did they manage well and did they lead?”

Now is a time to lead.

As business leaders we ask the State Legislature as to apply business principles to the management of government. If they don’t , they will have squandered a great opportunity because no state is better positioned than Utah is right now to lead this country out of recession.

Of course, it’s not about the Pew Center, Governing Magazine, or any expert grading system, however well respected. It’s about providing the citizens and businesses in this state with abundant opportunities to develop and improve life quality.

And if we do, we will continue a long-standing tradition in this state to be not only well-managed, but to be a great place to do business, to live and to raise a family – a value at the heart of who we are.