FTA: Utah taxpayers get good value for transit investment

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

By any measure UTA had a great week. The Federal Transit Administration made a visit to our state this week to officially present a $116 million grant to extend the TRAX line from downtown Salt Lake City to Draper.

The 3.8-mile extension is the final leg of the FrontLines 2015 project, which will add 70 miles of rail along the Wasatch Front over seven years.

We sat down to discuss the project and the importance of transit-oriented development with Peter Rogoff, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Chamber reacts to Gov. Herbert’s budget

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Gov. Herbert unveiled his budget for FY 2013 today and the Chamber issued an enthusiastic statement of support.

You can read the entire statement here. Here are a few highlights:

No new taxes – Utah’s economy is second-best in the nation and has provided needed flexibility to meet state needs and invest in the future using existing revenue streams. With $408 million in new one-time and ongoing revenue, Utah can meet its current and future needs without a tax increase.

Eliminate structural imbalance – Economic circumstances of the past few years have required the state to use a modest amount of one-time revenue for ongoing expenses. Thanks to Utah’s growing economy, Utah is now able to eliminate the structural imbalance. The governor has wisely chosen to do so.

Prepare for a rainy day – Business leaders keenly recognize the economic challenges still facing our world, nation and state. The European debt crisis, political paralysis abroad and at home and continuing corrections from the financial and housing crisis mean that much uncertainty still exists. By maintaining a rainy day fund balance of $232.5 million, Gov. Herbert has positioned the state to weather future uncertainties and, once again, demonstrated Utah’s fiscal responsibility, sending an important signal about Utah’s credit worthiness.

Strategic investment in education – The governor has recommended $3.2 billion for public and higher education and directed that funding to high priority areas that are supported by the business community through the Prosperity 2020 movement. We support the governor’s recommendations to fully fund public education enrollment growth, allocate $10 million for early intervention programs, expand online career counseling and fund computer adaptive testing tools. The governor has also made funding a portion of higher education enrollment growth and performance measures in higher education a priority.

Medical student expansion – The governor has wisely recommended funding 20 additional slots for medical students at the University of Utah. A physician shortage has been a concern of business leaders. The governor is right to support this funding.

Transportation funding – The governor supports $60 million for infrastructure maintenance — both roads and buildings. This funding will enable the state to protect its investment by preserving and maintaining transportation infrastructure.

Reduce unemployment insurance rate – Utah’s unemployment rate is headed in the right direction. At the same time, Utah businesses welcome tax relief as they work to hire and invest in the Utah economy. By recommending lower minimum and maximum caps for the state unemployment insurance rate, Gov. Herbert will reduce the tax liability by $26.4 million for 68,000 Utah businesses. This tax relief will stimulate additional private hiring and investment.

Three businesses announce growth in Utah

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The economic signs have been positive for Utah’s economy for several months now. We have created around 30,000 jobs in the last year, we’re attracting businesses from other states and businesses that are already here are growing.

Just today the Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced three businesses are adding jobs.

Hexcel, a leading advanced composites company, plans to expand its existing Utah operation in several increments over the next decade—eventually it may double its current workforce in West Valley City.

Hexcel has advanced composite facilities around the world and is one of the country’s largest producers of carbon fiber and carbon fiber prepregs. The company’s current facility in West Valley City is one of its largest U.S. operations.

“We are proud to have been at the heart of Utah’s Composites industry since its beginning,” a Hexcel representative said in a statement. “We look forward to continued growth at our facilities in West Valley City and appreciate the support of the community as we move into the next phases of our industry’s expansion.”

News also broke today of L-3 Communications’ plans to expand operations in Utah. Beginning in 2012, L-3 will begin the process of hiring up to 500 new workers as it expands its current facility in Salt Lake City. Those workers will be paid salaries that exceed 125 percent of the Salt Lake County average wage. The company expects to pay nearly $390 million in new state wages over the 10-year life of the expansion project.

“I cannot think of a better place to do business,” said Susan D. Opp, President of L-3’s Communication Systems-West.  “Utah has the combination of a skilled, well-educated work force, excellent quality of life options, and state and local governments that promote business growth.  That is why our operation has continued doing business in Utah for over 50 years.”

Futura Industries is also expanding in our state. Having grown beyond its current capacity, Futura’s Utah plant turns raw aluminum into extruded parts used in a wide variety of industries including automotive, flooring, home improvement and fitness equipment manufacturing.

The process starts with high-tech machinery heating raw aluminum to 850-900 degrees Fahrenheit and then extruding it into the required shape. From there, the products are anodized (a process that prepares the metal to receive dye and hardens its exterior) and finished.

Over the years, Futura has found Utah’s workforce to have the ideal combination of skill and artistry. Workers in the State have the technical expertise to do the necessary work combined with a work ethic that is second to none.

“During the last four years, Futura Industries Corporation has experienced tremendous growth in revenue and income. We are at a critical juncture where expansion of our operating facilities is imperative,” said Sue Johnson, president of Futura Industries. “The State of Utah has been an outstanding location in which to build and grow our business. We are deeply grateful for the support provided by the state of Utah, which will support the future growth of Futura Industries in Utah.

The new project is a two-phase expansion of the company’s aluminum extrusion line and its anodic process line. The company has scheduled an early-2012 start date for the project. All told, the expansion will add over 140 new jobs to Futura’s Utah operation.

Whether a business started in the Beehive State or it has decided to relocate to take advantage of our business friendly climate and unsurpassed quality of life, it’s clear there’s something special going on here.

Chamber takes part in Prosperity 2020 legislative proposal rollout

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

This morning the Chamber was proud to take part in the Prosperity 2020 news conference. For the first time in the history of our state, business leaders from a host of industries and from across the state have joined forces behind a single, comprehensive proposal to strengthen education in our state.

You can read the detailed news release here.

You can download the proposal breakdown here.

In just four days, Gov. Herbert will roll out his budget proposal. The good news is the state is projecting revenue to be higher this year than the past few years so we have the opportunity to invest in education.

The Prosperity 2020 proposal includes increased accountability, innovative reforms, enhanced focus on STEM fields and $67.45 million in strategic public and higher education spending, in addition to enrollment growth. The recommendations serve as a first step in a multi-year effort by business leaders to strengthen the Utah economy through urgent and sustained improvements in Utah’s education system.

Utah Business magazine December 2011

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The December edition of Utah Business magazine is now available and we sat down with Sarah Francom, managing editor of the publication, to see what’s inside the issue.

It’s a small world: Chamber, CBRE release economic outlook for SL County

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The Salt Lake Chamber and CBRE released an economic outlook for Salt Lake County. The report focuses on the high level of volatility and the impact that will have on economic growth.

The report says: “The global economy is extremely interconnected. What happens in one part of the world can impact another, almost instantaneously. To steal a phrase from Disney, “it’s a small, small world.” The single greatest threat to the global economy at the present time is Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Not only does the possibility of sovereign defaults present a threat to the economy in Europe, if it were to destabilize the continent’s financial system, such a development would exact an immediate impact on financial markets around the world.

“In the US, policy clarity is limited as well; the debt super committee was unable to produce the savings required by law, creating even more uncertainty regarding fiscal sustainability. As demonstrated by the debt ceiling debates last summer, failure to maintain sustainable fiscal policy in the U.S. is highly destabilizing. Furthermore, as 2012 elections approach, the level of support provided to underpin the recovery is in question.”

You can download the full report here.