The modern economy of Salt Lake City is service-oriented. In the past, nearby steel, mining and railroad operations provided a strong source of income with Silver King Coalition Mines, Geneva Steel, Bingham Canyon Mine, and oil refineries. Today the city's major industries are government, trade, transportation, utilities, and professional and business services. The city is known as the "Crossroads of the West" for its central geography in the western United States. The daytime population of Salt Lake City proper swells to over 315,000 people, not including tourists or students.
Local, state, and federal governments have a large presence in the city, and trade, transportation, and utilities also take up a significant portion of employment, with the major employer being the western North America Delta Air Lines hub at Salt Lake City International Airport. Equally significant are the professional and business services, while health services and health educational services are significant areas of employment, including the largest health care provider in the Intermountain West, Intermountain Health Care. Other major employers include the University of Utah, Sinclair Oil Corporation, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Besides its central offices, the LDS Church owns and operates a profit division, Deseret Management Corporation and its subsidiaries, which are headquartered in the city.
Salt Lake City is home to one Fortune 500 company, Huntsman Corporation, and two Fortune 1000 companies, Zions Bancorporation and Questar Corporation. Other notable firms headquartered in the city include AlphaGraphics, Sinclair Oil Corporation, Smith's Food and Drug (owned by national grocer Kroger), MonaVie, Myriad Genetics, and Vehix.com. Notable firms based in nearby cities within the metropolitan area include Arctic Circle Restaurants, FranklinCovey, and Overstock.com. Metropolitan Salt Lake was also once the headquarters of American Stores, the Skaggs Companies, and ZCMI, one of the first department stores; it is currently owned by Macy's, Inc. Former ZCMI stores now operate under the Macy's label. High-tech firms with a large presence in the suburbs include Adobe, eBay, Unisys, Siebel, Micron, L-3 Communications, Telarus, and 3M.
Other economic activities include tourism, conventions, and major suburban call centers. Tourism has increased since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and many hotels and restaurants were built for the events. The convention industry has expanded since the construction of the Salt Palace convention center in the late 1990s, which hosts trade shows and conventions, including the annual Outdoor Retailers meeting and Novell's annual BrainShare convention.
In 2006, the largest potato producer in Idaho, the United Potato Growers of America, announced that it would relocate its headquarters to Salt Lake City, citing its need for a large international airport, being that Salt Lake City International is the 22nd busiest in the world in combined freight and passengers. The announcement led some members of the Idaho legislature to propose legislation changing the state license plate, which currently reads "Famous Potatoes".
In 2005, it was found that the downtown area was experiencing rapid population growth. The number of residential units in the central business district has increased by 80% since 1995, and is forecast to nearly double in the next decade. The City Creek development of the LDS Church will be adding 300 units in its first phase including the 415 ft (126 m) tall City Creek condominium tower. Allen Millo Associates currently has two projects under construction and two more planned. All 200 units have been sold before construction of a seven-story condominium planned by Wood Property. A residential tower is planned for Trolley Square, and this follows the recent completion of the Northgate Apartments and 12-story condominiums at Gateway with two more buildings finished nearby and the Liberty Metro apartments near Library Square.
Office vacancy rates are low in the downtown region. In response, two new large buildings are being constructed. The first is eight stories and located in the Gateway District, while the second will be 22 stories high and is currently under construction on Main Street. In addition, the historic Walker Bank Building is currently undergoing major renovations that will enable it to achieve Class A office space status. Construction of the Gateway District, light rail, and planned commuter rail service have supported the revival of downtown.
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“The basis of political economy is non-interference. The only safe rule is found in the self-adjusting meter of demand and supply. Do not legislate. Meddle, and you snap the sinews with your sumptuary laws.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“Even the poor student studies and is taught only political economy, while that economy of living which is synonymous with philosophy is not even sincerely professed in our colleges. The consequence is, that while he is reading Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Say, he runs his father in debt irretrievably.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“The counting-room maxims liberally expounded are laws of the Universe. The merchants economy is a coarse symbol of the souls economy. It is, to spend for power, and not for pleasure.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)