Business and jobs take center stage

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Over the past two days, we’ve been hearing a lot about the state of things. Tuesday, President Barak Obama delivered a 6,956 word State of the Union address to Congress. Last night, Governor Gary Herbert uttered 3,047 words to present the State of the State address. At the Salt Lake Chamber’s 108th Annual Meeting, Chamber President Lane Beattie and Chair of the Board of Governors Scott Parson combined for 2,886 words as they presented the State of Business address and laid out a vision for the future of Utah’s largest and longest-standing business association.

That’s a combined 12,889 words to tell us how things are going and to paint a clear picture of what’s important.

Believe it or not, all three speeches shared some of the same basic themes.

Jobs.

Sure we all used different words to drive the point home but, in the end, jobs are the golden ring everyone is reaching for.

From President Beattie:

“…jobs are the key. This morning, over 101-thousand Utahns got out of bed with a desire to work but with no job to go to. Restoring the Utah economy back to full employment is the top priority of the business community.

“We have a plan to get us there. The Utah Jobs Agenda calls for strategic investment in education, transportation, international business, and energy. It calls for thoughtful approaches to immigration, tax policy, rural development, air quality and statewide corporate recruitment. Over the next five years we will create 150-thousand jobs.”

Parson echoed the sentiment:

“The business community has no higher priority than putting those Utahns back to work.”

Just for fun, we put all the aforementioned speeches in a word cloud… just to see what would pop.

STATE OF THE STATE

STATE OF THE UNION

State of Business

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

To borrow a line used last night by the President of the United States and a line our governor will use in about six hours… the state of our Chamber is strong.

The state of our Chamber is strong. The influence for good from our business community is strong and our economy is growing stronger every day.

The Salt Lake Chamber now represents over 61-hundred businesses and 500-thousand Utah workers. That’s half the state’s workforce. Our membership spans the state with members in all 29 Utah counties as well as ten states outside Utah’s borders.

More than a quarter of a million people attended one of the 173 Chamber events last year.

We are not only Utah’s largest business association, we are the longest-standing, as well. Our roots date back well over a century. We are proud to represent each of our members—including the 243 businesses that have been members for more than 25 years.

Our mission is to, “stand as the voice of business, support our members’ success and to champion community prosperity.” Two outstanding strategic partners aid us in our efforts.

The Downtown Alliance focuses on strengthening business in the Central Business District of our Capital City. In the past year, 30 new businesses have opened their doors and added the to vibrancy of our urban center. Along with ten thousand Farmers Market visitors who pack Historic Pioneer Park every week, thousands more who ring in the New Year at EVE and thousands of diners who try new restaurants during Dine O’ Round… they are proving that a vision has become a movement and is becoming a reality… Downtown is Rising.

The Crossroads of the West is becoming the capital of the new American West. Utah’s influence is felt not only beyond the borders of our state, but beyond the borders of our nation. Salt Lake City is a “world city.”

Last year, our landlocked state was the only state in the nation to increase its exports. For two straight years we set new highs for merchandise exports at over ten billion dollars. The official numbers are not in yet it… but it looks like we’ve done it again for the third straight year.

Our partnership with the World Trade Center Utah is strengthening the Utah economy. As Lew Cramer says… “Exports mean jobs.

And jobs are the key. This morning, over 101-thousand Utahns got out of bed with a desire to work but with no job to go to.

Restoring the Utah economy back to full employment is the top priority of the business community.

We have a plan to get us there. The Utah Jobs Agenda calls for strategic investment in education, transportation, international business, and energy. It calls for thoughtful approaches to immigration, tax policy, rural development, air quality and statewide corporate recruitment. Over the next five years we will create 150-thousand jobs.

The Chamber’s Women’s Business Center is dedicated to helping budding entrepreneurs. In the past year alone, the program provided nearly 500 hours of professional counseling, took on over 200 new clients and helped launch 20 new businesses.

I mentioned education as a key component to job creation. It really is much more than that. Education is the key to enduring prosperity. Right here in Utah we produce more students than any other state in America. That poses some challenges. But, as is often the case, the challenge is just a clever disguise for our greatest opportunity. By making the right investment in education, by making it a top priority, we can ensure lasting prosperity for decades to come.

The Chamber was proud to join a select group as a founding council member of Prosperity 2020. Along with 13 other chambers of commerce and along with organizations like Citizens for Educational Excellence, the Economic Corporation of Utah, Friends of Higher Education, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Junior Achievement of Utah, United Way of Salt Lake and Utah Technology Council we have put forth the largest and the most significant business-led education initiative in our state’s history.

In the coming weeks, months and years you hear more and more about Prosperity 2020. You can see some of the initial advertisements on the screens. We show students in places they will be in just a few short years—working, managing and leading.

I can attest that, even for a veteran business leader, those days in school don’t seem like so long ago. I’d like you to listen for a moment to one of the radio ads and you can understand what I mean.

[LISTEN: Prosperity 2020]

You will hear more of that over the next several years. Our commitment to education is firm. As the largest customer of our educational system, we have lofty but achievable goals.

-By the end of 3rd grade, 90 percent of students should be reading at grade level.

-By the end of elementary school, 90 percent of students should be proficient in reading and math.

-And by the age of 20, two-thirds of all Utahns should have a skilled-trade certificate or college degree.

Just as we are committed to providing a world-class workforce of the future… we are dedicated to enhancing the workforce of today.

As we explored ways we could help you strengthen your team… you told us you didn’t want to waste too much time traveling back and forth to classes. You told us you need a flexible schedule. And you told us you don’t want to break the bank.

In each of your organizations you have good workers with the potential to be great and great workers with the potential to help you in ways you may not have even dreamed of.

Today, I’m proud to announce we have a way to help make your best even better.

Chamber University is an on-line, video-based program designed to enhance the skills of your team members. Through this program, your employees can learn from experts from across the nation and from the top business leaders—many of whom are right here in this room.

We’ve given you all a flyer with some additional detail on Chamber University. We’re very excited to be able to offer this new service to our members and we look forward to making your best even better.

Now a word about our finances. As I said a few minutes ago, the state of our Chamber is strong. That applies to our financial footing. The business community is committed to the success of the Chamber just as the Chamber is committed to the success of Utah business.

To give you an indication of just how far we have come, you can see on the screens the organization’s equity position dating back to July 2003. From a starting point of 475-thousand dollars in the red to over 100-thousand dollars in the black, our turnaround is well over half a million dollars. That is nothing short of remarkable and you all deserve a round of applause for that.

There are so many great things happening at the Salt Lake Chamber. This past year, for the first time ever, we honored a woman as A Giant In Our City. Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish has contributed greatly to business and to our community. In less than two months we will honor another bishop—Bishop H. David Burton as A Giant In Our City.

I also want to take a moment to thank the Chamber staff. Many of you have heard me say this before but it bears repeating. We serve more members with a smaller staff than any chamber our size in the nation. That we can do so is a testament to the quality of employees we have. Will you join me in a round of applause for the hardest working, most talented and most dedicated chamber staff you’ll find anywhere?

The Chamber will continue to strengthen the business climate in Utah. We will address the challenging issues. From cleaning our air to lowering health care costs, from building the energy economy to protecting our commitment to first-class transportation and transit systems, to protecting from over-regulation and creating jobs… the Chamber will stand boldly as the voice of business and we will be the champion of our prosperous community.

Thank you for your support. And thank you for all you do to contribute to our success.

Building our economic cathedral

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Prepared remarks given by Scott Parson at the 108th Annual Meeting and Small Business Awards. Parson is chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors and president of Staker Parson Companies.

I’m reminded of the story from some eight centuries ago when a cathedral was being constructed in a French village.

Everyone was involved, from stonemasons to carpenters and from architects to tea ladies, and the whole process took over a hundred years.

One day a visitor to the city stopped at the construction site and, seeing the people at work, proceeded to ask the villagers what they were doing.

The carpenter told him “I’m cutting these boards for the scaffolding team.”

The stonemason replied “I’m shaping the stone for the east wing foundations.”

The glassblower said he was making windows and the architect said he was finalizing some of the designs.

Finally the visitor asked an old lady sweeping up debris in the courtyard what she was doing, and she responded… “I’m building a cathedral.”

At Staker Parson Companies, we supply construction materials and build strong foundations and roads that connect us.

We are part of the community, working together to build something bigger than our business.

We are building an economic cathedral. We are building the Utah economy. And we’re building the strongest economy in the world.

In this room we have bankers, commercial property managers and health care professionals. We have homebuilders, economists and politicians… educators executives and lawyers. Each of us has a specialty but we’re all building the cathedral that is the Utah economy.

As we build our cathedral… just like with any building… we must start with a strong foundation.

Over the past two years… we have weathered a severe economic storm. But through these challenges we have invested wisely and we find ourselves perfectly positioned to accelerate out of the Great Recession.

Our strong foundation was a key component of our performance during the downturn and as we grow again, we must ensure that the foundation is solid not only to support the growth we see ahead, but also to prepare for the difficulties that may lie even further down the road.

As I like to say… “The foolish man builds his house upon the sand. The wise man builds his house upon concrete!”

Now is the time to strengthen the foundation of Utah’s economy.

It’s easy to say, “we need to strengthen our foundation.” I don’t get a lot of boos or heads shaking in disagreement when I say that. But we need to get into some specifics. So today I want to share with you five pillars of strength—five areas of focus that will help us build a world-class economy.

The first pillar is WORKFORCE.

All businesses need employees—they are the lifeblood of successful organizations. As business leaders, you understand the importance of surrounding yourselves with talented, skilled and engaged employees.

Utah’s young, well-educated workforce is renowned the across the nation and is a significant competitive advantage for businesses looking to grow in our state. Just look at the businesses that have decided to come to Utah—or to expand here: Adobe, Twitter, Goldman Sachs. (And I should mention Salt Lake is now the second largest Goldman Sachs operation in the Americas… and the most-demanded work location among Goldman Sachs employees.) The National Security Administration recently broke ground on the Utah Data Center. When completed, it will employ 200 Utahns—not to mention approximately ten thousand construction-related jobs needed to build the facilities.

These organizations see a foundation upon which they can build and they’re eager to grow right here in Utah.

Of course, it’s not all about the businesses that come to Utah… it’s about the homegrown businesses, too.

Overstock.com is growing. Fusion-io is growing. 1-800 Contacts is growing. So are Coherex, Merit Medical and RanLife.

Just as our workforce is a significant benefit to homegrown Utah companies and a beacon to those looking for refuge from bankrupt states with increasing tax rates… our commitment to developing and strengthening our workforce must be equally strong. And as Utah’s business leader, we will lead out on education.

Business is education’s biggest customer. Those who are students today will be workers, managers and CEOs tomorrow.

The Chamber has worked with other business, community and education groups to lay-out the Prosperity 2020 vision. This is the most significant business-led education initiative in our state history. We know the path to enduring prosperity begins with education and we will ensure we have the workforce to propel Utah’s economy for decades to come.

The second pillar is INFRASTRUCTURE.

Over the past several years, we have invested in our infrastructure and we have seen the benefits to both business and to quality of life that comes as a result.

Economic prosperity requires efficient transportation systems and now is the time to continue to invest.

We have greatly benefitted from our foresight. Half a decade ago the Chamber brought this issue to the forefront and because we tackled our congestion issues head on, we now benefit from what Forbes calls the nation’s swiftest commute and we’re on target to lay 70 miles of rail over seven years.

We are much better positioned to keep goods moving through our state, to keep people out of gridlock and to enhance the quality of life at the Crossroads of the West.

But infrastructure includes much more than just transportation. To fulfill our economic potential, we must continue to improve the state’s education, energy and utility infrastructure.

The third pillar is ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

Low taxes, competitive energy rates, reasonable regulations… efficient infrastructure, a world-class workforce and increased merchandise exports create the environment for economic success and we’re focusing on all of these.

But even as the economy recovers… too many Utahns—more than 100-thousand—woke up this morning without a job.

The business community has no higher priority than putting those Utahns back to work.

As Lane mentioned, we have a plan to create 150-thousand jobs over the next five years. It is an ambitious plan. But working together, we will get there.

The fourth pillar is BUSINESS CLIMATE.

I could have put the word “Forbes” on this pillar.

Forbes loves Utah and has become a de facto cheerleader for our state.

As I mentioned, Forbes has lauded our commute the nation’s swiftest and last fall ranked Utah as the “Best State for Business and Careers.” Other media outlets including CNBC and Newsweek have heaped praise on our state—with Newsweek calling Utah the “economic Zion.”

We have worked hard to cultivate a business friendly environment. Our efforts as a business community and as a Chamber will continue to foster the world’s best climate for business growth and success.

The fifth pillar is PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.

The continued development of our workforce is key. Earlier this afternoon, Lane announced a new program the Chamber provides to help businesses develop the skills and harness the potential of their employees. Chamber University will help businesses of all sizes strengthen their teams as they learn skills that help them elevate their performance.

Education cannot end with graduation. We all need to find a way to be better tomorrow than we are today. As the old saying goes, “if you ain’t growin’ you’re dyin’!” To keep our economy growin’ we need to keep our skills, our dedication and our vision growin’!

Our focus on workforce, infrastructure, economic development, business climate and professional development will serve as the foundation of our world-class economy and, ultimately, enhance Utah as the best place to do business, not just in the West, not just in the United States but in the world.

To get there we must be proactive. We must be deliberate and we must be strategic.

My clarion call for you today is to do your part to build the world’s strongest economy.

The Chamber is the hub of business leadership. The close ties of business leaders, speaking out with one voice, working with our elected officials… it all plays an important role in achieving our goal.

Your membership in the Chamber, your participation and your support are vital. It’s no coincidence that our Chamber’s influence is proportional to the strength of our state economy. Engaged business leaders are essential to our success.

I want to thank Lane and the tremendous Chamber staff he’s assembled. I also want to thank the Executive Board and the Board of Governors for their outstanding service and wise leadership. And I want to thank all Chamber members who serve on committees and task forces and who do the work that makes us successful.

Thank you all for your support of the Salt Lake Chamber and thank you for your role in building our economic cathedral.

Milken Institute rates Utah in top five for Science Technology

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Add another honor to the list. The Milken Institute has released it’s 2010 State Technology and Science Index and Utah is listed at number five.

The list ranks states that have “successfully built and leveraged their science and technology resources to create diversified economies for the 21st Century.”

Utah jumps from 8th in the most recent index (2008) to 5th, sitting just behind Colorado and California and just ahead of Washington and New Hampshire.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Salt Shakers help raise money for homeless

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The Salt Shakers were proud to be a part of the Salvation Army’s kick off for the 2010 Annual Holiday Campaign to help raise money for the poor, homeless, and others in need who often remain overlooked during the holidays and all year long.

This year’s campaign theme, “Hope Wanted,” draws attention to the continuing hardships men, women and children face in the wake of our country’s ongoing economic struggle.  Many families are drained by waning unemployment benefits, high costs of living, and lack of jobs.  They are not just looking for help – they are looking for hope.

The Salvation Army’s time-honored Christmas Campaign will include traditional fundraising methods such as direct mail – in addition to the highly visible Red Kettles, a holiday tradition that has served as a symbol of goodwill for more than 100 years.

Salt Shakers cut ribbon on T’s Grill

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The Salt Shakers have been busy giving the big scissors a workout.

The T’s Grill is the epitome of a small entrepreneur. Starting from humble beginnings, they have now opened their first “brick and mortar” location after several years of hard work,.

T’s started in 2006 with a small concession stand serving food at any event where they could get a booth and successfully grew into a full blown catering business. The opening of their first restaurant last week was in response to many customer requests for a permanent location. The owner and operators of T’s Grill were extremely grateful for the Shakers participating in their opening and provided a complimentary lunch that was very good. We wish T’s Grill great success with their new venture!

T’s Grill website: www.tsgrillonline.com.

A movement for Prosperity

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

We were proud to sign the Prosperity 2020 vision this morning along with more than 20 business, community and education partners. Business leaders understand the impact well-educated citizens have on our community and the importance of well-educated workers within an economy.

The Prosperity 2020 vision sets some lofty goals for Utah students in both public and higher education. Over the next decade, we want 90 percent of 3rd graders reading at grade level. We want 90 percent to be proficient in math and reading by the time they finish elementary school. And we want 66 percent of Utahns over the age of 20 to have either a college degree or a skilled trade certificate.

Focusing on younger students and making sure they stay engaged and up to speed will pay lasting dividends. Kids who fall behind early face an uphill battle and, unfortunately, we see far too many underachieve and drop-out before finishing high school. Those who graduate, are often unprepared for college work. By training our sights on younger students and helping them build the foundation necessary for educational success, we’re investing in their future and in the future of our economy.

A recent Georgetown University study shows that by 2020, two-thirds of all Utah jobs will require some level of post-secondary education. Just take a look at the businesses we’re attracting lately and you’ll see we need to raise the bar to supply these companies with the types of employees their businesses require. Businesses like Adobe, Twitter, and even organizations like the National Security Administration all need smart people and they’re wagering on Utah.

We’re honored to be among the group supporting Prosperity 2020. You can lend your support as well. Just visit the Prosperity 2020 website.

Forbes says Utah among top job markets

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Less than a week after the Chamber rolled out the Utah Jobs Agenda, a private sector plan to create 150,000 jobs over the next five years, it looks as though we have reason to be optimistic.

Forbes, which has already lauded the Beehive State for having the swiftest commute in the nation and, of course, as the “Best State for Business and Careers,” now says our job market is among the best in the country.

On a list released today, Utah ranked eighth among America’s best job markets. Forbes cites our 7.1 percent unemployment rate–breaking it down to 2.75 job applicants per open job–as a reason for the high ranking.

“The Salt Lake City metro area has a number of factors going for it,”  reports Moody’s Economy.com. “Its young labor force is well educated, it has relatively low business costs, its population is growing, and its a transportation hub. The region’s tech sector is expected to lead the recovery.”

You can read the entire article and see the slideshow of the nation’s best and worst job markets HERE.

Win Ben Stein’s admiration

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A few weeks back, Ben Stein, he of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Win Ben Stein’s Money fame, came to Salt Lake City and it looks like he’s a fan.

Stein, who is a former presidential speechwriter in the Nixon White House and a frequent commentator on CBS’s Sunday Morning, raves about the people he met in Salt Lake City and praised or people calling us, “ell dressed, neat, orderly, speak well, are friendly and self-confident.”

You can read the entire blog post HERE.

And just in case you’re not familiar with his work…

The strength of our future is jobs

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Utah’s economic expansion is well underway. The Utah economy is growing at twice the national rate and has been expanding now for seven consecutive months. Economic conditions are stronger than at any time in over two years and employers have added 13,200 jobs in the last 12 months. Consumers are spending again, businesses are profitable again and tax revenues are growing again. After the longest, deepest and broadest recession in over seven decades, more prosperous times are within reach.

But there’s a big problem. And it’s a problem that affects every business and every family in the state. Unemployment in Utah remains at an unacceptably high level. Approximately 102,200 Utahns are unemployed, a full 7.5% of our workforce. It’s the highest level in 26 years and almost twice what would normally be expected. Our economic recovery will not be complete until Utahns are back at work.

Utah business leaders recognize that we have a role in restoring the Utah economy to full employment. It is through our investment, innovation and industry that Utah’s economy will flourish again. Our entrepreneurial success, combined with supportive federal, state and local government policies, will enable the economy to thrive. But it will take purposeful and united action.

The Utah Jobs Agenda is a private sector plan to create 150,000 jobs in five years. It includes ten areas of focus, each with a metric of performance. It combines the most important economic issues of our time – education, transportation, energy, the cost of doing business, corporate recruitment, immigration, tax policy, air quality and rural development – with determined and effective business leadership. We believe it will accelerate Utah’s return to full employment and catapult us to become the best performing economy in the nation.

Undergirding the Utah Jobs Agenda is an optimism and belief of Utah business leaders in the power of the Utah economy to not only recover, but to prevail. Everybody else seems to believe in us – Milken Institute, Forbes, Money Magazine, CNBC, Kiplinger, Kaufmann Foundation – It’s time that we start to believe in ourselves and take actions that will put more people back to work.

As business leaders, we commit to demonstrate our confidence in the Utah economy by taking these three steps:

1. Invest – We will invest in Utah. Most businesses in Utah are profitable again. It’s time we put those profits to work building our economy.

2. Innovate – We will become more innovative than our national and international peers. The global economy rewards out-of-the-box thinking. We will innovate our way to the top and, in the process, create jobs for Utahns.

3. Hire – We will begin hiring again. The most recent recession took its toll. It takes courage to risk again. But Utah businesses believe in and value the Utah workforce. Utah workers have always been highly productive, healthy and dedicated. It’s time to put them back to work.

SOME QUESTIONS

Is it achievable? The Utah Jobs Agenda is an ambitious plan. It contemplates the creation of roughly 30,000 jobs per year for five years. That’s more than twice what the Utah economy is creating now. It’s also the amount necessary to get us back to full employment. As business leaders, we believe in the Utah economy and believe Utah has the right economic fundamentals to make it happen.

How will we get it done? We will work with each other and our elected leaders to have a laser-eye focus on creating jobs. We are prepared to take the requisite steps to meet our goals. Steps like …

Advocating for no general tax increase.
Supporting state-guided health system reform.
Keeping our commitment to five-year plan of transportation investment.
Maintaining 2010 per pupil spending in public education.
Promoting long-term, cost-effective energy development.
Organizing three international trade missions per year.
Stepping up Utah’s corporate recruitment efforts.
Complying with federal national air quality standards.
Supporting the Downtown Rising vision.
Creating a partnership with rural Utah to maximize rural Utah’s economic assets.

    How much will it cost? The Utah Jobs Agenda contemplates significant investment in Utah (specific numbers are provided in the metrics). We believe it is just that – an investment – that will reap rewards over the long term. We have been careful to constrain our plan to existing revenues, both private and public. Our biggest fear is that we will invest too little, not too much in Utah’s economic future.

    When will the job creation start? We expect 2011 to be a rebuilding year for the Utah economy. Our forecasts call for the economy to grow at about 1.4 percent, or about 17,000 jobs. This is about half our historical rate of job growth. In subsequent years, we expect the Utah Jobs Agenda will help more than double this performance and return the Utah economy to full employment.

    What is required of the governor, Utah Legislature and other elected leaders? Economic development is a team sport. We need the full partnership of our elected leaders to be successful. We presented a copy of the Utah Jobs Agenda to the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate this morning. We will be hand delivering a copy to Governor Herbert this afternoon. We will also be sharing it with Utah’s congressional delegation and county commissioners and mayors throughout the state. Together, we can propel the Utah economy to be the strongest in the nation.