Utah Today

Ron Rood and Linda Thatcher

Utah’s thousands of years of prehistory and its centuries of known recorded history are so distinctive and complex that a summary can only hint at the state’s rich heritage. The synopsis offered here follows major themes in Utah history and includes some of the significant dates, events, and individuals.

In the decades following World War II Utah has continued to grow. Cultural institutions such as the Utah Symphony, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Opera Company, Ballet West, and Utah Festival Opera (Logan) to name a few, have a solid reputation both locally and nationally. Utah’s educational and research centers have developed a variety of scientific and medical innovations, including the artificial heart.

Utah is also a leader in information technology. High-tech companies that have resided in Utah include Iomega, Novell, Correll and WordPerfect. Even after WordPerfect moved to Canada, and Novell went through a layoff cycle, programmers, engineers and executives reinvested their severance money in new companies that have speeded the growth of Utah’s high-tech industry. Intel Corp. announced in March of 1998 that it had purchased options on two Salt Lake County properties to possibly build a seven-building campus that may eventually employ 8,000 people.

The announcement in 1996 that Salt Lake City would host the 2002 Winter Olympics spurred not only the construction of new sports venues and facilities but the development of $300 to $400 million in fiber optic communications infrastructure upgrades. In 1998 Scarborough Research Corp. stated that Salt Lake City had more personal computers per household than any other city in the United States advancing Utah’s reputation of being savvy to technology.

Tourism has become a major economic factor year-round with the development of Utah’s ski industry, national parks, and recreation areas such as Lake Powell and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which was created by President Clinton in 1996. Southwestern Utah is also booming, due to its warm climate which is attractive to retirees.

Another growing multi-million dollar industry in Utah is that of film and television production. Popular television shows produced in Utah included “Promised Land” and “Touched by an Angel.” Motion pictures filmed in Utah include: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Footloose (1984) Forrest Gump (1994), Independence Day (1996) and Thelma and Louise (1991).

A major issue in Utah is that of transportation. An ever growing population along the Wasatch front has spurred the reconstruction of I-15—the main artery around Salt Lake City, light rail (Provo-Salt Lake City) and TRAX (street railroad for Salt Lake City).

Nevertheless, as a modern state, Utah faces the same kinds of problems that face other states: adequate funding for all levels education and other public needs, environmental protection, increased opportunities for women and minorities, preservation of the historic and cultural heritage, continuing economic development of rural areas, conservation of natural resources and areas of natural beauty, and urban renewal. Additionally, with some three-fourths of her land owned by the federal government, Utah in recent years has been a leader among the western states in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion against federal dominance. How these and future challenges are met will fill tomorrow’s history books.