Route Fifty Navigator Awards Discussion: Uncovering Innovation In Utah

The Salt Lake City and County Building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Salt Lake City and County Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Join us in Salt Lake City (or remotely) for our first Navigator Awards discussion with innovators driving transformation at the state and local level.

The Route Fifty Navigator Awards program is in its second year of seeking and highlighting the best and brightest in state and local government. Beyond our awards ceremony, we decided to add two live events this year to meet some of the innovators who are transforming government by doing things differently.

We’re excited for our first stop:  Salt Lake City. If you’re local, we hope you’ll come join us in person—don’t forget to register!

Even if you’re not able to make it in person on Tuesday, May 23 at 8:15-10:15 a.m. MDT (10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. EDT), you can watch remotely via our event livestream.

Forbes ranked Utah as the best state economy in 2016 and it was ranked seventh overall by U.S. News and World Report, with its economy, government, and infrastructure getting particularly high marks. Utahns have tremendous faith in their state government institutions to serve its citizens (just check out this polling from 2014). At the same time, the state also has a strong conservative bent that tends to push toward limiting the size and funding of government.

Joining us will be the individuals who thread that needle and make this state a center of state and local government innovation.  

Our keynote speaker, Kristen Cox, has received national buzz for applying the same “stress tests” the Federal Reserve applies to large banking firms to the state budget of Utah while also succeeding in making government more effective and responsive to citizens’ needs.

Our closing speaker, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, is also forging innovative ways to serve his citizens. His county of over one million souls is home to one-third of the state’s population. The county government is often considered one of the pioneers in collaborating with non-governmental entities around social impact bonds.

Often referred to as “pay for success,” government partners with private sector, non-profit or philanthropic organizations that commit to improving certain social outcomes, such as reducing homelessness. The partner pays the upfront costs, and the government reimburses the organization based on performance-based outcomes. While perhaps not ideal for every social program or every government, the arrangement is often a way for those without available funds to make progress on complex social issues. From homelessness, to preschool education, to keeping juveniles out of the justice system, Salt Lake County has been at the forefront of pay for success.

Route Fifty will also explore some of the areas where the state is trying to grapple with some of the problems that have stemmed from its successes.

Along with its rapidly growing economy, Utah also happens to be the fastest growing state in the nation. Exacerbating that growth, over 80 percent of its population lives on about 1 percent of the land—a 120-mile long sliver of a valley against the Wasatch Range.  This makes Utah among the states with the highest urban density in the nation.

This has generated a unique pollution problem for the state. Utah is fighting a pollution war on multiple fronts—attempting to cut emissions in a growing state, while dealing with a winter weather phenomenon known as ‘atmospheric inversions’ that traps smog in the state’s population center along the Wasatch Front.

In Salt Lake City, Route Fifty will sit down with some of the state and local leaders who are identifying ways to reduce pollution through new policies, programs, and seeding greater awareness among citizens.

Be sure to check out more details about our Salt Lake City event and livestream on our website—and don’t forget to nominate outstanding state and local innovators for a Route Fifty Navigator award!

Mitch Herckis is the Senior Director of Programs at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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