Health Care Reform Tax Credits for Your Small Business

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

SelectHealth Greg Matis interview from Salt Lake Chamber on Vimeo.

A recent survey showed over two-thirds of small businesses don’t understand the ramifications of the recent federal health care reform. The Salt Lake Chamber has teamed up with SelectHealth to help small businesses understand how they can get a 35 percent tax credit on health benefits for their employees.

Greg Matis, senior legal counsel for SelectHealth and Intermountain Healthcare joined us to discuss the event and the benefits for businesses who attend. So if  you own a small business, are struggling to offer insurance to your employees or if you are looking for ways to recruit and retain quality workers, join us July 8 as we help you determine if your business qualifies for the new federal tax credit.

Charting the course

Friday, June 25th, 2010

This week we held the annual Board of Governors retreat. This is an important day as we discuss our public policy work and get counsel on how the business community wants to proceed.

Education was voted the development of our workforce followed by immigration and economic development.  There is no issue more critical to the long-term prosperity of our state than education. Going forward we’re focused not only on investment, but also on innovation to make sure we continue to benefit from a well-educated workforce.

In the past year, the Chamber has played a critical role in protecting funding for both public and higher education. Governor Herbert and the State Legislature wisely chose to invest when other states could not. The investment in the development of our workforce will pay off for years to come.

The Board of Governors also showed strong support for a number of other policies we’ve pursued over the past several years. In the coming year, we’ll work to strengthen our economy by focusing on transportation, energy, health system reform, international business and an effort to enhance air quality.

The challenges we face provide us with some wonderful opportunities to shape the future of our state. I’m grateful for a engaged board made up of business leaders that want to contribute to our efforts.

Chamber forms Utah Economic Council

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest and longest-standing business association, has enhanced its role as Utah’s business leader by creating the Utah Economic Council – a handpicked group of economists and analysts who have expertise about the Utah economy. The Council has been created to improve the quality of economic information and interpretation available to business and community leaders as they steer the Utah economy to a more prosperous future.

“The recent economic downturn has reminded us of the importance of credible, thoughtful and robust economic analysis and counsel,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “The Utah Economic Council gives us a dream team to provide an economic perspective that is so critical to the business community.”

Salt Lake Chamber Chief Economist Natalie Gochnour will lead the Utah Economic Council. Gochnour has a long history of studying and interpreting the Utah economy having once served as Gov. Leavitt’s top economist and chair of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. She is joined by seven other council members that include representatives from both urban and rural areas, reflecting the statewide mission of a capital city chamber. The Council includes the dean of the College of Business at the University of Utah and a macroeconomist from Brigham Young University, as well as representatives from two major financial institutions, the state’s top public policy think tank and Gov. Herbert’s top economist.

“Utah’s economy is in transition, moving from contraction to expansion, from regional to global and from less known to well known,” said Gochnour. “The Utah Economic Council will explain economic trends and issues and help improve economic literacy and decision making. The hope is that it will become an economic resource to the entire community.”

Council membership includes the following prominent local economists, public policy analysts and business leaders:

Natalie Gochnour, chief economist, Salt Lake Chamber, and Chair, Utah Economic Council
Gochnour oversees the public policies and communications of Utah’s largest and longest-serving business association and provides economic counsel to the Chamber’s more than 6,000 member businesses In previous roles, she has served as chief operating officer of the Salt Lake Chamber, counselor to Secretary Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department Health and Human Services and associate administrator of public affairs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to working in Washington, D.C., Natalie served as Gov. Mike Leavitt’s deputy for policy and communications (where she served as his spokesperson); deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget; State Planning Coordinator; and the Director of the Demographic and Economic Analysis section for the Governor’s Office.

Wes Curtis, director, Center for Rural Life, Southern Utah University
Curtis works with state and federal policy and lawmakers to advance the interests of Southern Utah University. He also works to actively engage the university with businesses, communities and governments throughout the region and state in such things as economic development, community planning, partnering and collaboration – with particular focus on rural communities and issues. He served for six years as senior staff, and as Utah State planning coordinator for both Gov. Mike Leavitt and Gov. Olene Walker, directing programs such as the 21st Century Communities and the Utah Smart Site initiatives. He has degrees from Snow College and Utah State University.

Richard Evans, assistant professor of economics, Brigham Young University
Evans specializes in international macroeconomics and monetary economics. His current research includes the relationship of international trade and inflation, optimal monetary policy rules, the effect of Chapter 11 bankruptcy on industry size, and financial regulation and bailouts. Dr. Evans received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and both an M.A. in Public Policy and a B.A. in Economics from Brigham Young University.

Steve Kroes, president, Utah Foundation
Kroes is president of Utah Foundation, a nonprofit research organization promoting a thriving economy, a well-prepared workforce, and a high quality of life for Utahns. He also serves as a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, the Utah Health Data Committee, and president of the Governmental Research Association, a national organization of individuals and groups researching governmental issues. Steve received a Bachelors of Science degree in Economics, from Brigham Young University in 1989.  He received a Master of Public Administration degree with an emphasis in public policy from the University of Southern California in 1990.

Kelly Matthews, emeritus economist, Wells Fargo Bank
Dr. Matthews retired from Wells Fargo Bank in November 2009 where he was responsible for local, regional and national economic analysis and forecasting. He was also the Wells Fargo government affairs officer in Utah. Matthews joined Wells Fargo as an economist in 2000 when First Security Corporation merged with Wells Fargo. He served as First Security’s chief economist for 27 years.

Juliette Tennert, chief economist, Utah Governor’s Office
Tennert is the Chief Economist in the Utah Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.  She oversees a staff of economists and analysts, who prepare the state’s population estimates and projections, analyze the fiscal impacts of state issues, prepare revenue estimates for the monitoring of the state budget, and disseminate economic and demographic information. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, respectively.

Taylor Randall, dean, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah
Randall was named dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah where he has been a faculty member for over a decade. Randall’s research focuses on the economic impact of operational strategies, strategic performance measurement and product variety management. Randall has served as a director for the University Venture Fund since 2003, during which time the Venture Fund has become the largest independent student-run venture in the country at over $18.3 million. Randall holds a bachelor’s with honors in accounting from the University of Utah and an MBA, master’s and doctorate in operations and information management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Alan Westenskow, vice president, Zions Public Finance
Westenskow is a vice president at Zions Bank Public Finance where he has spent the last 11 years assisting municipalities and non-profits in Utah, Idaho and Montana issue bonds to finance capital projects. Alan received his undergraduate education at Brigham Young University and received his MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Alan has an interest in international development issues and renewable energy and currently serves on the board of directors of Utah Clean Energy.

Initial topics the UEC will probe include the education imperative facing the Utah economy, economic development policy, tax policy, international trade, immigration policy, the urban-rural economic connection and federal/state economic relationships.

Oh Canada! Utah looks to strengthen ties with neighbor to the north

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Utah strengthens ties to Canada from Salt Lake Chamber on Vimeo.

Utah and Canada make a lot of sense as business partners. Today, the Salt Lake Chamber and the World Trade Center Utah hosted the York Region (Greater Toronto Area), one of Canada’s largest technology business hubs. The event included an information seminar
 and focused meetings for Utah companies interested in doing business or expanding in
Canada’s $160 billion Information Technology (IT) and Life Sciences markets.

Bryan W. Tuckey, the commissioner of planning and development services with the York Region sat down to disucss the potential for business ties between Utah and Canada with Lew Cramer, president and CEO of the WTCU.

Located just north of Toronto, York Region is one of Canada’s major hi-tech business centers and home to over 1,500 local and international IT and Life
Sciences firms such as CGI, IBM Canada, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Motorola,
Pfizer and Apple Computers.

The Greater Toronto Area, Canada’s corporate, financial and commercial core, is the 6th largest metro
 area in North America, home to 40 percent of Canadian head offices and offers direct access to 50 percent of Canada’s entire consumer market. Greater Toronto is also the
 center of Canada’s $140 bn Information &Communication Technology (ICT) industry and $25 bn Medical and BioPharma market.

Welcome to the Party

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

It’s official. Utah is no longer the kid with his nose pressed against the window. Utah doesn’t have wait to be invited to the cool kids party. Utah is big time.

And I’m not just talking about the Utes.

The U’s official invitation to college football’s big stage is just another example of our emergence as a state onto the world stage. We’re known across the globe as the host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, we’re the home of the Greatest Snow on Earth. We’re the headquarters of a worldwide religion. And now we’re getting our shot at the big boys of college football.

The University of Utah has officially accepted an invitation to the Pac-10 Conference and is part of the cool crowd in college athletics.

The Utes earned the invitation by achieving such a level of success in the Mountain West Conference that they could no longer be dismissed as an overachiever or just one of several outsiders fighting for a seat at the table.

In 2005, the Utes dominated Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl  Just to show it wasn’t a fluke, they thumped Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

You can’t get more “big time” in college football than that. Now the U gets the chance to show it consistently belongs, that it is more than the biggest fish in a smaller pond.

The invitation to the Pac-10 benefits Utah on the field for sure. And it won’t hurt the bank account either. The University of Utah jumps from a conference with a television deal that brings in approximately $1.2 million per year to one worth $8-10 million and that’s under the terms of the agreement for a ten team conference—just wait until the deal is renegotiated with a conference championship added to the mix.

Beyond the dollars of the deal, the Utes will now be able to recruit players from states where they will play much more frequently, namely California. And kids in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Florida all watch the late games on Saturday afternoon, too. Seeing the U more frequently and wearing a Pac-10 patch on the uniform, legitimizes the program in the eyes of the very player and parents Kyle Whittingham will now work to recruit.

More importantly, he won’t have to worry about the next coach telling recruits Utah is a good school but not in a big time conference. Joining the likes of USC, Oregon, UCLA and fellow newcomer Colorado, helps the Utes elevate the level of players that wear the red and white.

The recruiting doesn’t end when you step off the football field. When a college football program perceived as big time, enrollment—even from those who can’t run a sub-five-second 40-yard dash. Being a member of the Pac-10 will also play a role in attracting exceptional talent to the faculty and to the student body.

Even college football fans of Utah’s rival, BYU, should see this as a win. It elevates one game that will always be on the schedule in the eyes of national pollsters and it heightens the tension in a battle that was never short on passion in the first place.

In recent years, downtown Salt Lake City has done a great job of supporting the University of Utah football program. Last year, the Downtown Alliance organized businesses to “Paint the Town Red” and you can bet the excitement level will be higher when the U hosts USC.

Admittedly, there is a difference in the level of play in the Mountain West Conference and a bigger conference like the Pac-10. The Utes won’t have any easy weeks. They will line up against a higher level of athlete and compete against some of the best-coached programs in the nation. They’ve proven they can do it a few weeks out of the year and they’ll have to prove they can do it week in and week out.

That’s part of running with the big dogs.

Welcome to the party.

Clean Air strengthens Utah’s Economy

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Earlier this week we held the annual Salt Lake Chamber Golf Classic. After an unusually wet late spring, we were fortunate enough to play under a clear blue sky with temperatures in the low 70s. It was what I like to refer to as a “Chamber of Commerce day.”

I use that phrase because it is the kind of day that would encourage tourists to visit and companies to relocate to our state. At first glance, the expression implies that great weather can be an economic benefit for a community. But the fact is, the quality of the air in a community often plays an even more significant role in attracting businesses and educated workers.

Just two days ago at the Salt Lake Central Station, Gov. Herbert and Mayors Becker and Corroon accepted the Clear the Air Challenge on behalf of their employees and constituencies. The challenge encourages all Utahns to “Drive Down Your Miles.” As the governor noted, half of the air pollution in our state comes directly from the tailpipes of our cars.

As individuals, we can all do our part to improve the air quality in our state—and even a small effort can make a big difference. We can start by driving less and , when we have to drive, driving smarter. That means consolidating errands into one trip, keeping up on vehicle maintenance, driving the speed limit, staying off the roads during high congestion periods and turning off the car rather than idling.

Businesses can also play an important role by encouraging employees to telecommute, carpool, walk, bike or utilize mass transit options including buses, TRAX and FrontRunner as a means to get to work.

Last year the 3,456 Clear the Air Challenge participants eliminated 110,720 trips—enough to avoid over one million miles driven. That effort saved almost 45,500 gallons of gasoline, more than $580,000 in total vehicle costs and more than 1.7 million lbs. of emissions.

This year, the bar has been raised and we hope to engage 10,000 participants, eliminate 300,000 vehicle trips, save over two million miles and reduce 3.4 million pounds of emissions. Those are some lofty goals but the Salt Lake Chamber is proud to accept the Clear the Air Challenge—and we’re anxious to do our part.

To add to the fun, your organization can work as a team or divide up for an intra-office competition. The Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance teamed up last year and eliminated 7,300 miles, reduced emissions by 13,000 lbs. and saved 350 gallons of gas. That’s not bad for a month’s work but we are shooting to do even better this year.

It’s easy to do, you just have to log on at www.cleartheairchallenge.org, set your goals and track you progress. You can even win prizes.

The biggest prize is the one we earn and enjoy together—a true Chamber of Commerce day.

Broadway Summer Stroll debuts Friday

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The first annual Broadway Summer Stroll begins this Friday and will continue every third Friday throughout the summer. Over two dozen art and craft vendors will gather along East Broadway during the popular Salt Lake Gallery Stroll in June, July and August.

“I am looking forward to having additional art craft vendors to supplement the artists in our district,” said Marci Rasmussen, owner of Especially For You (your downtown florist). “They will add to Friday’s festivities and contribute to the vibrant scene and economy in Downtown Salt Lake City.”

Visitors can enjoy shopping at a variety of unique downtown shops and galleries while visiting a wide range of street vendors offering handmade, local arts and crafts. Many vendors participate in the Downtown Art & Craft Market at the Farmers Market, Craft Lake City and the Broadway Fashion Stroll. The list includes RomyLuvsCorina, All the King’s Maille, Fueled by Whiskey Jewelry, Urban Patchwork, Botanica Apothecary and many more.

There will also be live music performed by Zak Parrish and the Chow Truck and City Dogs will be on Broadway selling food during the event.

The event, created to support local business and encourage people to shop downtown, is co-sponsored by the Downtown Alliance, Local First and the Broadway Merchants Association.

Where: East Broadway (300 South) between State Street 300 East

When: June 18, July 16 and Aug. 20 from 6-9 p.m.

Teeing it Up at the Salt Lake Chamber Classic Golf Tournament

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The 21st Annual Salt Lake Chamber Golf Classic gave Chamber members a chance to get out of the office and play a round.

No matter how good any of the players were–and we had some pretty solid golfers–none could honestly claim to be the best golfer at the event.

We’re not being mean, that’s just a fact.

Anytime you have a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who happens to be a two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year and a two-time U.S. Open champion who also has a green jacket in his closet for winning the 1970 Masters Tournament… there’s no shame in being second best.

Billy Casper, who now calls Utah home, spent the day on the course. He gave some putting tips and talked about his time on the tour.

More than 120 players participated in the Chamber Classic this year. Congratulations to everyone who got out of the office on a magnificent morning and especially to the foursome from Holmes Homes for winning the tournament.

Sundance brings big benefits to Utah

Friday, June 11th, 2010

courtesy: Sundance Film Festival, Brandon Joseph Baker

The Sundance Film Festival means big business for our state—and we’ve got the numbers to prove it.

Last week, the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the David Eccles School of Business released a study showing just how much our state benefits from the festival, which was founded by Robert Redford in 1981. At its core, Sundance Institute is a not-for-profit organization that fosters the development of original storytelling in film and theatre and is internationally recognized for its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights, and theatre artists.

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival generated an overall economic impact of $62.7 million for the state of Utah, supported over 1,500 jobs, generated over $18 million in media exposure and provided millions in tax revenue. Since 1994, Sundance Institute has brought in excess of $1.5 billion in economic activity to the state through its annual film festival.

Through its films, panels, music events, and community and student programs, the Sundance Film Festival annually brings international exposure to an array of cultural, political, and social issues. The Festival inspires visits to Utah by leading CEOs, and dignitaries, and serves as a vital platform for business development.

Across the world Utah is known as the home of the Greatest Snow on Earth, we stepped into the world’s spotlight in 2002 during the Winter Olympic Games and the Sundance Film Festival further enhances our reputation as a world city.

Creative Class and Friends

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I had lunch yesterday in a new Main Street restaurant with a new friend named Jon Dean, who is the executive producer for Electronic Arts, Inc. EA is a global leader of digital gaming. They moved 100 new jobs to downtown Salt Lake City from a studio in Bountiful a couple of months ago.

Based in Redwood, California, EA develops, publishes and distributes interactive software worldwide for video game systems, personal computers, wireless devices and the Internet. But anyone who has a computer, PS3, Wii or children probably just knows them by their tagline: It’s in the Game. EA has a huge range of gaming products, but their Utah office is comprised primarily of developers who focus on family-friendly offerings.

EA’s employees represent the “creative class” a new group of high-tech workers, artists and designers identified by economist Richard Florida who are a driving force for economic development. Their skills allow them to live anywhere in the world – as long as they have access to the Internet, cell phones and an airport.

Jon said EA decided to move into cool downtown digs because an urban location is more dynamic than the suburbs and more appealing to his creative employees. He also noted that the state’s transportation infrastructure converges in the city center. Jon likes the fact that multiple services are right outside his door, including restaurants, retail, nightlife, cultural offerings, the Utah Jazz, as well as and downtown events like the Utah Arts Festival, Twilight Concert Series and Farmers Market. EA is helping to contribute to downtown’s renaissance, continuing the momentum for revitalization of Utah’s capital city.

This week, downtown also welcomes the first wave of Goldman Sachs employees who are temporarily moving into the Chamber of Commerce Building while multiple floors of 222 Main are prepared for their eventual long-term home. Demographically, the Goldman employees are similar to the EA team. They are young, well-educated, tech-savvy and have a unique skill set that allows them to live anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to technology.  In the next several months, hundreds of additional Goldman employees will make the move to the city center, joining other large downtown employers like Fidelity Investments, Intermountain Healthcare, Wells Fargo and Zions Bank.

Utah is a good fit for corporate regional headquarters like EA and Goldman that are looking to expand and grow. We have an enviable quality-of-life, inexpensive cost of living and doing business, and an increasingly dynamic urban community that can support the demands of world-class companies.  Working with our partners at Salt Lake City, EDCU, and GOED, we are looking for ways to help existing companies continue to succeed, while attracting more regional corporate headquarters to the region’s urban hub.

There are plenty of reasons that people who can live anywhere in the world should choose to live right here, right now. There has never been a better time to live, work, eat, shop and play downtown.

Jason Mathis is the executive director of the Downtown Alliance