BY TOM BUSSELBERG
LAYTON С A changing world is one of those constants, like taxes and death.
“Every day there is more digital data generated. It’s a real challenge to get our arms around it and make good decisions,” said Dr. Pam Perlich of the University of Utah’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research.
She was the keynote speaker at the Friday, Nov. 2 Business & Economic Summit and Training held at the Weber State University Davis Campus in Layton.
“Embracing the Radical Future” was the theme for the half-day event.
“The tractor replaced horses and plows and the computer is taking away the need for as many people” in a variety of jobs, Perlich said.
That shift away from needing so many workers is exemplified well in Utah by Kennecott Copper, which employed 8,000 workers as late as the 1970s, and today as only a fraction of that.
“They employ very few people but have increasingly huge equipment,” she said.
Perlich has to only look at her Nissan to realize that while it was assembled in the U.S., it’s largely a factor of robotics. The drive train, transmission and other parts are manufactured elsewhere.
But with all of this change, Utah trailed only Arizona and Nevada in terms of the percentage of economic growth “and they couldn’t maintain theirs,” she said.
The proliferation of technology in everyday lives and overall change in the workplace accents evolving demographic shifts in the state, Perlich said.
The in-migration of thousands of people from around the world has created what could be called two different Salt Lake Citys, for example, she said.
Many areas in Salt Lake City would’ve lost population had it not been for the influx of migrants coupled with a relatively high birth rate, Perlich continued.
Even the complexion of Davis County has seen some changes in recent years. About 12 percent of the population is listed as Hispanic in the 2010 census, for example.
“Twenty-eight percent of the growth in Davis County was the result of minority growth,” she said.
The mostly white, “baby boomer” generation is aging, and that will mean more changes ahead.
Utah draws people from around the world for a lot of reasons, not least that of the huge Mormon missionary force, Perlich said.
“People who come here are the innovators, risk-takers. They bring new technology, new intellectual traditions and ideas,” she said.
Being connected via the Internet is drawing the world closer together, she said.
“I have friends who do business in China. They said people there are starting to question things because of their link to the Internet.”
Amid all this change, it is still possible for individuals and groups to make a difference, she said.
“We can think about the community in big ways. As we join resources, we can change the future Р make sure our education and health care are great,” for example, she said.