Category Archives: Utah Business Columns

It’s not about you: Why social cohesion is more important than ever

Originally published in Utah Business.

As an economist, I am often asked to speak to groups about global, national and local economic conditions. It’s a familiar routine—l talk about jobs, unemployment, wages, price levels, interest rates, and even taxes. But lately, a different topic has crept into my presentations. More and more, I find myself talking about social cohesion. It’s really thrown me off because I’m not a sociologist and it’s not my area of expertise. I do know that social cohesion is important to well-functioning economies and societies.

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Pursuing the Olympic Games is about our children

Originally published in Utah Business.

All of us have memories of when the Olympic movement first touched our lives. Mine was in 1986 when Tom Welch, then in charge of Utah’s Olympic bid, called the governor’s planning office, and I picked up the phone. He was calling from an airport payphone, on his way home from a United States Olympic Committee (USOC) meeting. The USOC had decided to drop Anchorage, Alaska, as the U.S. bid city and open up the competition to others. Tom wanted to know if he could count on the economists in the governor’s office to help prepare Salt Lake City’s bid. This phone call started a 32-year connection for me with Utah’s Olympic movement that continues today.

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Themes for a New Year: Storylines, Words and Phrases in 2018

Originally published in Utah Business.

At the end of every year, news entities, language companies and others select a word or phrase of the year. In 2017, Merriam-Webster selected “feminism” because of the Women’s March in Washington D.C., the #MeToo movement and other instances of women speaking their minds.

Oxford Dictionaries picked the noun “youthquake” to describe the significant cultural, political or social revolution arising from what Oxford calls the actions and influence of young people in 2017. Other entities selected “complicit,” “resist,” “taking a knee” and even “covfefe,” a word Pres. Donald Trump tweeted that’s meaning remains in dispute.

These words all say something about the intensity of 2017. It got me thinking about what words or phrases would prospectively capture Utah events and stories in 2018.

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A Recipe for Holiday Joy throughout the Year

Originally published in Utah Business.

The holidays are in full stride. Downtown shines with holiday lights and our homes radiate with gifts, menorahs, nativities and pine trees. We sip cider, sing carols to neighbors and celebrate with loved ones. This is the season of joy.

Joy is a wonderful word. We feel joy at the most important moments in our lives—graduation, marriage, childbirth and special events with loved ones. Some people name their children “Joy” as an expression of their happiness. When we feel joy, we feel a lightness, jubilation and high spirits. Joyfulness is possibly the most positive human emotion.

I recently asked myself the question, “What is the secret to lasting joy or happiness?” This question seems particularly relevant during the holiday season when we surround ourselves with loved ones and sing songs of joy.

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Fall Reading: Conscience of a Conservative

Originally published in Utah Business.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is one of few Republican senators who challenge President Donald Trump directly, openly and actively. He’s written a new book titled Conscience of a Conservative. In it he makes the case that America’s conservative movement has lost its way and is in crisis. And while his commentary may be on the bleeding edge of conservative thought about our current president, I think Flake presents a compelling analysis. I recommend his book for your winter reading.

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Take Note: A Gordon Hayward Retrospective

Originally published in Utah Business.

With a new arena and an energized fan base, the Utah Jazz are game on. The regular season has started and the Jazz are once again the talk of the town. It looks to be a fun year with a team full of international players and one of the best centers in the league. While the Jazz won’t vie for an NBA championship this year, they will, as always, stand tall with high-character players, an uber-talented coach and general manager, and the most community-minded owner in the league.

Which brings me to wonder … what was Gordon Hayward thinking?

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Fleeting Magic: Don’t let life’s big moments pass you by

Originally published in Utah Business.

We are passengers on a rock swinging through the solar system in a celestial dance choreographed by forces beyond our ken and control. Awe is an uplifting emotion. It is good to feel small, to sense how brief and fragile our lives are in astronomical terms, to see that beyond the mundane lies a great mystery. – William Falk, Editor-in-chief, THE WEEK

By the time you read this column, the full solar eclipse will be several weeks old. That won’t stop me from using the eclipse to make a point. Big events capture our imaginations and inspire us. They open our minds to life’s great mysteries. We let go of the day-to-day and grip something larger than self. It’s as if the heavens open and turn off our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We are reminded there is a big world out there, even a galaxy. Our lives are better when we embrace the magic of these moments and gather them into our souls.

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Utah’s growing cost of doing business problem

Originally published in Utah Business.

The Utah economy celebrated its eighth anniversary of economic growth in June, the second-longest in state history. Currently, the state economy is creating about 45,000 jobs a year. Unemployment remains low at 3.2 percent and inflation-adjusted wages continue to rise. The nice economic winds have been blowing and business is strong.

I sense a change in weather in the next 12 to 24 months led by a tight labor market, rising interest rates, the end of the “Trump rally” and something no one is talking about—the rising costs of doing business in the Beehive State.

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Major trends with the potential to reshape Utah

Originally published in Utah Business.

Alvin Toffler was a futurist who wrote extensively about the digital revolution. He popularized the term “information overload” and wrote the landmark book Future Shock, which has sold millions of copies and remains in print today. He died last year, but left a legacy of compelling ideas. I thought about him and his words recently as I led a discussion with the executive committee of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors. We discussed major trends impacting Utah. I thought Utah Business readers would enjoy a quick synopsis of our discussion.

Toffler said, “The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.” It’s true. We have a hard time keeping pace with and predicting change. I think, however, there are several significant issues and trends right in front of us that we need to better understand.

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Dog Economics

Originally published in Utah Business.

I share my life with a beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever named Marley. Marley has the personality of a service dog—gentle, kind, content and loving. She lives for food, walks to the park and family play time. She loves sunspots and scratches on her ears.

In the morning, she visits my side of the bed first, just to make sure I’m still there and her life is complete. When I come home from work, I can see her looking out the window watching for my return. In the evening, when I sit in my comfy chair, her tail thumps the ground when I talk to her. She makes me feel like a million bucks.

Marley lounging on the kitchen floor.

Marley lounging on the kitchen floor.

Marley sheds too much, whimpers at times, snores and makes our yard a bit more difficult to walk in. But make no mistake—my life is better because of her loving companionship.

I’ve never used the term “dog economics” before, but I think it’s useful to use my dog to make a point. As business people, we spend much of our days talking about things we can quantify—profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cost allocations—and too little time considering the things we struggle to quantify—a positive work environment, professional friendships, a listening ear to a coworker in need.

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