Category Archives: Utah Business Columns

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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Hillbilly Elegy: A deep, compelling look at poverty in America, with implications close to home

Originally published in Utah Business.

I’ll never forget the first time I came face to face with squalor. My car broke down as I was driving home from Capitol Reef National Park. I walked a half-mile or so in the dark to a home just off the highway. A man opened the door, hesitated, and then let me in to use his phone.

Inside the home I saw filth, dirty dishes and food scraps. I saw several children sleeping on the floor, two of whom seemed too old to be wearing diapers. Over in the corner I saw the mother staring at a TV set, barely noticing I was there. I made my phone call and left, never forgetting the sadness I felt. The home bore no resemblance to the order and comfort of my wholesome, middle-class upbringing.

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Truth and Consequences

Originally published in Utah Business.

America’s best immigration policy is a prosperous Mexico

I’ve always admired Condoleezza Rice. I first met the former National Security Advisor and later U.S. Secretary of State during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games when she attended Opening Ceremony. A year later, in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate to visit with her at the White House. And while I admire her grace and stature, what I prize most is her well-informed insights.

I have a vivid memory of an interview she gave on the topic of illegal immigration. She explained to the reporter that the best way to stem the tide of illegal immigration from Mexico was to foster a healthy, growing, and strong Mexican economy. This sensible comment struck a chord with me. We can talk about deportations, walls, the war on drugs, visa reform, and import taxes, but what we really need is a prosperous Mexico.

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Predictions for 2017

Originally published in Utah Business.

I love the start of a new year and am typically filled with optimism as I contemplate local and world events. This year the realist in me takes center stage as I look forward with more trepidation and uncertainty, particularly concerning global affairs. While my crystal ball is foggy and blurred, here are a handful of predictions for the new year.

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Gifts of the season

Originally published in Utah Business magazine.

The holidays are in full swing. Snow blankets our yards, lights illuminate our streets and homes, and songs of the season fill the air. This is a glorious time of year … with one exception. We spend too much time thinking about and collecting things.

Every year around this time, I circle back to the same holiday wish. I want the holiday season to be about people, not things. I want to spend less time chasing material satisfaction and more time building lasting relationships.

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Our Northern Neighbor: Comparing the Economies of Utah and Idaho

Originally published in Utah Business.

I love the state of Idaho. I love the spectacular mountains, the rivers and the farmlands. I enjoy visiting the small towns and view Boise as an up-and-coming metropolitan area with an urban vibe. I love Sun Valley in the winter or summer and always welcome the chance to take my family there for a getaway. Mostly, I appreciate the people of Idaho for their friendliness, hardiness and industrious spirit. We are fortunate in Utah to have such a wonderful neighbor to the north.

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The Economics of Trump and Clinton: Comparing the policy positions of the candidates

Originally published in Utah Business.

I stopped writing about the presidential election several months ago because I entered into a funk. But never mind that … election day is nearly here and I feel compelled to share my thoughts about the economic policies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Because of my funk, or what you might call nervous depression, I’m going to give a pass to several things that bother me. I’m putting my anxieties about Clinton’s email server, Benghazi and Bernie Sander’s-inspired liberalism on a shelf. I’ll do the same with Trump’s 3 a.m. Twitter tirades, lack of any prior experience in public office, and his offensive language toward women, Mexicans, veterans and really anybody he wants to lash his ugly tongue at. I’m looking purely at the efficacy of selected economic policies.

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Adapting to the future

Originally published in Utah Business.

I recently attended Sen. Mike Lee’s Utah Solutions Summit. The focus was Utah’s workforce and economy. The program not only included a who’s who of education, business and economic leaders, but keynote presentations by Indiana governor and Donald Trump running mate Mike Pence, and former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. I left the conference thinking about the Utah economy and Utah’s future and want to share a few thoughts.
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