Home sales on the rise in Utah

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Some good news today for the Utah real estate market as the Utah Association of Realtors announced home sales rose 16.4 percent in July compared to the same month last year. That is the biggest increase in sales since May of 2010.

During the month, Utah Realtors sold 2,686 homes up from 2,307 sold in July 2010.

“The rise in home sales is positive for Utah because these gains will help push inventory lower, which will ultimately stabilize home prices,” said Kenny Parcell, 2011 president of the Utah Association of Realtors.

The number of contracts signed to buy homes was also higher in July, up about 22 percent compared to last year, which signals sales will likely increase next month as well. In fact, year-to-date pending sales are outpacing the first seven months of last year by nearly four percent. This is the third straight month of double-digit gains in pending sales.

Other good news from the report was the fact that inventory dropped significantly in July. The number of homes for sale at the end of July was 25,240, down 17.5 percent from last year when 30,607 properties were on the market. Combined with the pick-up in sales, it would now take 9.9 months to sell the entire supply of homes at the current sales pace. This is the lowest statewide reading for month’s supply since March 2008.

WSJ says Ogden is “Where the Action Is” in Outdoor Sporting Gear

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

If you like playing in the Outdoors, there’s a good chance the equipment you use has had a touch in Ogden, Utah.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal listed the seven cities “Where the Action Is,” and the northern  Utah city took the top spot for outdoor sporting gear.

The WSJ has high praise for business clusters–a key component of Utah’s economic development strategy.

“Utah has a relatively modest share of the industry; the state estimates it’s home to about 5% of the outdoor-products firms in the U.S. Still, companies that expanded in or relocated to Utah have created at least 2,550 jobs in the past six years, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

“Industry goliaths get partial credit for the surge in Ogden. Amer Sports Corp., the company behind Wilson, Atomic and other brands, consolidated its U.S. operations in 2007 and moved them to the town. Quality Bicycle Products Inc., a distributor based in Bloomington, Minn., set up its second location in Ogden in 2010.”

You can read the entire article here.

Ogden, Utah (Outdoor Sporting Gear)
Cities featured in the article include:
Albany, New York (Nanotechnology)
Asheville, North Carolina (Beer Brewing)
Indianapolis, Indiana (Life Sciences)
Kansas City, Kansas & Missouri (Information Technology)
Nashville, Tennessee (Healthcare)
San Antonio, Texas (Cybersecurity)

Navigating the treacherous path to H-2 visas

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Today we wrap up the second and final day of our Utah Immigration H-2 Visa Workshop. This is part of our effort to help Utah businesses that need seasonal, lower-skill labor navigate the complicated bureaucracy that involves three federal agencies and one state agency, and imposes requirements for trying to hire American workers to fill the jobs.

The simple fact is, many agricultural, landscaping and hospitality businesses have jobs they can’t fill. The H-2 visa program requires them to pay what is known as the “prevailing wage,” so this isn’t about finding cheap labor, it’s about finding people willing to do the job.

But consider the position of a business looking to hire worker for these jobs that require hard work, knowing the prevailing wage isn’t lucrative. These businesses have to anticipate a need weeks in advance, advertise the position in the newspaper, register it with the Department of Workforce Services (all part of making the job available to American workers first) then apply for the visas. Keep in mind only 66,000 H-2B visas are issues each year nationwide.

Then comes the tricky part.

Businesses need to find the workers they need–none of whom are here in the country already.

You can see how the expense and hassle can mount quickly. But if a hotel doesn’t have waiters and cooks, it can’t hold a banquet. If it doesn’t have maids to clean the rooms, it can’t welcome guests. The effects can be far-reaching. If you don’t have the lower-level workers to do the job, you don’t need supervisors, you need fewer people in human resources, maintenance workers and others. If you stop growth at the lowest levels of a business, you hurt growth for the entire business and you stunt economic growth across the state and across the nation.

We sat down with Tim Wheelwright, a top immigration attorney with Durham Jones & Pinegar, to discuss the process of securing H-2 visas. We also talked with Alejandra Ocadiz, general director of the Neuvo Leon Migrant Attention Center. She runs a program known as CAM. Her goal is to make the process safer for Mexican workers, who may otherwise try to enter the country with the help of a Coyote, and easier for U.S. businesses looking for workers that have been pre-qualified.

During the 2011 General Legislative Session, H.B. 466  set up a memorandum of understanding with Nuevo Leon, to look at programs like CAM to bring legal workers to Utah to fill these jobs.

Listen to the PODCAST.

You can read more about the workshop in the Salt Lake Tribune or the Deseret News. You can also read the Chamber’s official news release.

Open for business: North Temple viaduct opens for traffic

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

After 16 month of construction, the North Temple viaduct is open for business again. This morning, a robust crowd of business owners, community leaders and others walked across the bridge that once again joins downtown to the west side of Salt Lake City.

Mayor Ralph Becker and UTA General Manager Mike Allegra praised the businesses that have weathered both the Great Recession and the restricted traffic flow.

Mayor Becker thanked business and legislative leaders who worked to make the project possible–saying chances of making it happen five years ago were, “slim.” The mayor also praised the project as the state’s “most remarkable road,” which will feature two lanes for automobiles, a bike lane, pedestrian walkway and a TRAX line.

That TRAX line connecting downtown Salt Lake City to the Salt Lake City International Airport is scheduled for completion in 2013 but rails are visible along a majority of the route already.

Allegra echoed the mayor’s praise for the businesses along the North Temple. He also praised the construction team ahead of schedule and under budget–something we are starting to expect from UTA.

Ultimately, the finished project will be a tremendous benefit to business downtown and to the west of the railroad tracks. Today was another reason to celebrate the progress in our capital city.

Chamber Board Chair discusses, “Things I’ve Learned Along the Way.”

Friday, August 12th, 2011

At the Capitol Club meeting held at Vivint in Provo this morning, we heard remarks from David Golden, he’s the chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors and, for his day job, he’s the Executive Vice President and Manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking’s Mountain Division.

He discussed the importance of embracing change, including technological advancements, as well as never being afraid to ask for help, competing with class and building a strong network.

His complete comments can be heard in the podcast below or on iTunes.

PODCAST: David Golden Capitol Club

How long can Utah exceptionalism last?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

From the beginning of the Great Recession, Utah has been the exception to the rule when it comes to the national economic landscape. Today, our unemployment rate is nearly two full points below the national level (7.4 percent vs. 9.2 percent) and Utah’s year-over non-farm job growth is more than twice as high as the nation as a whole.

So what’s the issue? We still have an unacceptably high number of Utahns who want to be in the workforce who can’t find the job they’re looking for. For those 101,000-plus people, the recovery is anything but a reality.

Eight months ago, the Salt Lake Chamber presented a private sector, 10-point plan to create 150,000 jobs over the next five years. That number would bring Utah back to full employment. This plan, known as the Utah Jobs Agenda, shows we’re on pace to hit our first year projection.

So are we charging forward or is the recovery still on rocky ground?

Salt Lake Chamber Chief Economist Natalie Gochnour joins us on The Bottom Line to discuss Utah’s relation the U.S. economy, Standard & Poor’s math errors and the impact of the recent debt limit debate on our recovery.

PODCAST: Utah Exceptionalism Can’t Last Forever

Chamber presents Patriot Award at 9/11 Flag stitching ceremony

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Earlier this week, the Salt Lake Chamber joined hundreds of Utahns who added a stitch to The National 9/11 Flag.

Destroyed in the aftermath of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and stitched back together seven years later by tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kansas, The National 9/11 Flag is a living testament to the resilience and compassion of the American people.

The New York Says Thank You Foundation is currently taking The National 9/11 Flagon a journey across America where local service heroes in all 50 states will be given the historic privilege of stitching the flag back to its original 13-stripe format using pieces of fabric from American flags destined for retirement in each state. Once the flag is restored and made whole again by the 10th Year Anniversary of 9/11,

The National 9/11 Flag will become a part of the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at the World Trade Center.

The Salt Lake Chamber, as Utah’s business leader, strongly supports the heroes who make up our military and first responders.

So many in this community make a tremendous effort to support our men and women in uniform, and it was our pleasure to honor two of them earlier this week.

The Salt Lake Chamber, with the support of our Military Affairs Committee, presents the Patriot award to an individual or organization that has made a considerable impact in relation to our service members and family members.

For the last ten years Tom Guinney (Center, above) and John Williams (left, above) have supported the “Salute to our Nation’s Defenders Picnic” at Hill AFB.

What started out at a small event of a couple hundred people has grown into a massive event that last Friday fed over 2,500 service members and their families.

All of the food is provided and served by Gastronomy, with sponsors like Zions Bank and America First Credit Union make cash contributions to help offset some of the cost.

Tom served our country as a member of the U.S. Navy during three tours in Vietnam. He has since become one of the biggest supporters and advocates for our service members in our community.

Recently Tom and John assisted the family of an Ogden Army reservist who had been shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan.  They closed their restaurant, the New Yorker, to allow Zions to host a fundraiser. Proceeds helped the soldier’s wife and young daughter be at his bedside while he recovers in a California hospital.

Cut the red tape

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Utah has been named the best state for business and careers, but there’s always room for improvement. A strong economy and a strong business community are the result of limited and smart regulation.

Now you have the opportunity to strengthen our economy and create jobs by telling state leaders which regulations are roadblocks on our path to economic growth.

Click here to take the survey; it takes less than 5 minutes to complete.

Governor Herbert has tasked Utah’s state agencies with reviewing existing state rules and regulations and determining which should be kept, modified, or eliminated in light of their impact on businesses.

A crucial part of this process is gathering feedback from Utah’s businesses.

Caucus system insight

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The Salt Lake Chamber Capitol Club learned from some experts on the Utah caucus system at the annual retreat held today at Workers Compensation Fund.

We got some great information at the Captiol Club retreat this morning. LaVarr Webb, partner at the Exoro Group, Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Senator Pat Jones provided shared some important insight on candidate selection and elections in our state.

The big takeaway? Increasing participation across the state is key to making the system work the way it is designed to work.

Webb and Jowers sat down to discuss the caucus system. Here’s the link to the podcast. You can also find it on iTunes. We encourage you to subscribe to our channel for more great insight from Utah business and community leaders.

Capitol Club Podcast-Caucus

A testament of teamwork

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Editor’s note: this entry was authored by Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber.

Many years ago, I took my then four-year-old son on the inaugural ride of Salt Lake’s first TRAX light rail line. He liked Thomas the Tank Engine, and I wanted him to experience the start of something great.

That memory was at the forefront of my mind this morning as I attended the grand opening of the West Valley and Mid-Jordan TRAX light rail lines. It was one of those big, publicly-spirited events when visionaries from the past, present and future join to celebrate a big moment. I left with a sense of pride in the way the people of Utah unite to do great things.

The news conference was chalk full of what I’ll call “Team Transit.” Mayors, legislators, business leaders, UTA employees, contractors, engineers, federal partners, even about a dozen Siemens employees from California who built the trains, gathered to commemorate 16 miles of new rail serving Utah’s most populous county. Speakers at the event praised the hard work, creativity and collaboration that brought us to this point in time.

Several comments made by community leaders at the event deserve special mention. Mike Allegra, the general manager and all-purpose wizard behind Utah’s nation-leading transit improvements reminded us that the future is not a gift, but an achievement. Today we celebrated this philosophy in a big way.

Greg Hughes, chairman of the UTA board and a state legislator, shared his personal conversion from a naysayer to a believer as he watched UTA leadership operate. I share his confidence in UTA’s leadership team and top-notch employees.

Bill Millar, president of the national public transportation trade association, praised Utah’s visionary and collaborative culture. He said we get great things done in Utah because of our extraordinary teamwork.

Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie and others made call outs for John Pingree, the former general manager and CEO of UTA. They pointed out that our successes in public transit started many years ago with people like him. They also praised John Inglish for being the great purveyor and executor of visionary transit leadership.

Ever the historian, Mayor Winder of West Valley City quoted Brigham Young’s prediction about settlements west of the Jordan River. Now West Valley City has about 130,000 people, a planned half-billion dollar Fairborne Station mixed-use development and shiny new rail stations and trains. West Valley City is teeming with energy right now.

Mayor Nordfelt, the former mayor of West Valley City and the lead mayor during the funding battle for these new TRAX lines, perhaps said it best. He said, “I fear there are people here who will think we’ve arrived. The truth is this is just a step in a long journey.” He then emphasized the work that must be done to develop the Sugar House streetcar, rail to Park City and Tooele, mountain rail transportation in the Cottonwood Canyons and another north-south line on the western edge of Salt Lake County.

My son has grown up a lot since the first train ride. He’s sixteen years old now. He has no interest in Thomas the Train but he has become a frequent TRAX rider. Many years from now, I hope Utah’s TEAM TRANSIT will deliver even more public transportation benefits to him and his children.

Next stop…Salt Lake City International Airport.