Category Archives: Utah Business Columns

Our world is crumbling around us, but we can be the solution

Originally published in Utah Business.

Almost two years ago on NBC’s Meet the Press, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin commented on the unrest in our country by saying: “The thing that worries me is that [when you] attack [America’s] institutions… you are really attacking the rule of law and the checks and balances… the worry is, do the people themselves really understand how troubling this is… where in a riptide it could really roll us over.”

Well, the riptide is here. The combination of a pandemic, global recession, and social injustice have pushed America deep in the water and far away from the shore. We are swimming against the current and exhausted. There is no ocean floor to stand on, no floatation device, and no lifeguard. We are, as Goodwin warned, “rolled over.”

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Yes, the census really matters

Originally published in Utah Business.

Twenty-one years ago, I sat in a car in our nation’s capital with demographers from Illinois and Missouri. The head of the Population Division for the US Census Bureau had just picked us up from our hotel and we were driving across Key Bridge into Georgetown because we were in DC to provide input from the states on how to improve Census 2000. 

We were talking about a census concept known as “usual place of residence,” this, essentially, is identified by the place that you sleep at night. It was during this conversation that I realized that Utah’s 11,000 missionaries (at the time) would not be included in Utah’s 2000 Census count, and that gave me pause.

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Let’s take a break to be grateful

Originally published in Utah Business.

I served as an associate administrator for public affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the George W. Bush Administration. It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. In its mission to protect human health, the agency regulates every business, household, and government agency in America. Regulation is not for the faint of heart, and that’s why they say your two best days at the EPA are your first and your last!

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The danger of the escalating trade war

Originally published in Utah Business.

When I think of the People’s Republic of China, my mind goes to lots of places. I think of communism and the country’s red flag with gold stars. I think of the Olympics, both as a venue and remarkable athletes. I think of rice and tea and even Peking duck (yes, I’ve tried it before). I think of intellectual property disputes, the two-child limit, and the brilliant Shanghai skyline, framed by the waterfront of the Bund. But mostly, I think of the world’s most populous country―approximately 1.4 billion people… about one in every five humans on planet Earth.

With a population like that, there was once a time when China comprised much of the world’s poor people. Today, thanks to the introduction of market reforms, China has moved into the ranks of the global middle class. It’s an international success story, as an estimated 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past four decades. 

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Uncertainty Creates a Greater Risk of Recession

Originally published in Utah Business.

Uncertainty. It’s something economists think about a lot. And for good reason―economies rise and fall based on the confidence of consumers and producers.

I recently read an economic summary distributed by an investment banking firm that quoted analyst Nancy A. Bush. She said: “The watchword at present is “uncertainty”–uncertainty about trade, uncertainty about the strength of economic growth, uncertainty about the start date of the next recession, and political uncertainty galore.”

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Utah has more millennials than any other state

Originally published in Utah Business.

Utah’s millennial population represents approximately 23 percent of the state (726,000 people). Roughly one in every four Utahns is a millennial―a  higher percentage than in any other state. As a cohort, Utah’s millennial population is 20 percent larger than the state’s Gen-X population and 39 percent larger than the state’s baby boomer population. Which begs the question: How does Utah’s large millennial population impact Utah?

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Parade for change

Originally published in Utah Business.

Bake the cake. Light the candles. The US celebrates 10 years of economic expansion this summer, making it the longest expansion on record, boding good news for our nation and state. There’s just one problem… we haven’t made much progress on the critical issues important to our long-term economy and its prosperity, leaving many to wonder how can we use this time of plenty to make needed reforms.

I’m fond of the saying, “The best time to fix the roof is before it starts raining.” During good economic times, it’s smart to address difficult issues such as entitlement reform, immigration policy, and infrastructure investment. But where to start?

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How to love your enemies

Originally published in Utah Business.

During a recent appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic pollster Fred Yang summarized the modern political landscape by saying: “You get your reality from what channel you watch.”

His statement does not surprise me. If you watch Fox News, you celebrate our current president. If you watch CNN or MSNBC, you malign our current president. We are, in a very real way, what we watch.

In his new book, Love Your Enemies, Arthur C. Brooks, the former president at the American Enterprise Institute, provides an analysis of this type of “ideological siloing.” According to his writings, he says that not only do we stop interacting with people who hold opposing views but we hold contempt for them. He wants to start a countercultural movement to subvert the prevailing culture of contempt and open up our hearts to love more.  

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Utah’s economic commonwealth

Originally published in Utah Business.

Prominent Utah historian, Thomas Alexander wrote the Beehive State’s official history titled Utah, the Right Place, as part of Utah’s centennial celebration in 1996. Mr. Alexander, who is now a professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, specializes in western US history and frequently writes about economic themes. He coined the term “economic commonwealth” in describing Utah’s diversifying and evolving economy since 1980 and I think Mr. Alexander got it right.

While we typically think of a commonwealth as a US state (there are four of them) or the British Empire, the term dates back to the 15th century. The term describes a community founded for the public good and connotes a coming together of people to promote the group’s well-being.

In economic parlance, it represents an economy that is diverse, self-sufficient, and independent. It’s an economy that supports the general welfare, controls its destiny, and provides well for its citizenry. The Utah economy today is an economic commonwealth.

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Quality growth should be our north star

Originally published in Utah Business.

I recently moderated a panel for the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce about growth and Utah’s technology sector. The panel included Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Sandy City Mayor Kurt Bradburn, and Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow. We discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by quality growth, particularly around the Point of the Mountain at the intersection of Salt Lake and Utah counties. I gained several insights from the ensuing dialogue.

Mayor Bradburn governs at near ground zero for Utah’s growth: the tech-intensive corridor that stretches from Sandy to Pleasant Grove. When I asked him if growth pays for itself he said, “no” without hesitation. I wasn’t surprised.

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