A true international award

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

International business is booming in Utah. This morning, Chamber Communication Director Marty Carpenter has a column on KSL.com looking at the impact of international exports on our local economy.

For the third consecutive year, Utah leads the entire U.S. in merchandise export growth over a five-year rolling period.

With Utah exports reaching an all-time high of over $18 billion, it is quite frequent that the Chamber hosts world leaders. Just a few days ago, the director general of Taiwan paid a visit to Chamber President Lane Beattie and World Trade Center President Lew Cramer. Both were presented with a gift–an extremely personalized gift.

You can see Beattie and his official bobble-head doll above. Cramer and his are below.

“This is better than an Oscar,” said Beattie.

TSA PreCheck coming to SLC airport

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Good news for business travelers in Utah. Certain travelers going out of Salt Lake City International Airport may be able to avoid the hassle of the lengthy security process thanks to the expansion of a new passenger pre-screening initiative.

Salt Lake City International is one of 28 U.S. airports selected to implement the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck system in 2012.  This comes in place right before the construction of the new airport on the current airport site, expected to start in 2018 to make the airport more accessible and able to handle higher volumes of traffic.

The idea behind the PreCheck is this: by collecting information from people—generally, frequent flyers like those who travel for work— on a voluntary basis prior to a flight, those people will be able to have an expedited security experience to allow the TSA to focus on possible high-risk travelers they know less about. PreCheck is about enhanced security all-around.

The success from a trial period with several airports and airlines persuaded the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA to expand the pre-screening initiative to more airports that are operationally ready. It may be one step closer to permanence, but PreCheck is still in “pilot” mode. (Who says the government isn’t capable of humor?)

While more airlines are expected to join the initiative this year, only frequent flyers with Delta Air Lines will be eligible at the SLC for the PreCheck screening during domestic travel.

Once the TSA determines that you’re eligible following the PreCheck process, the proper information will be embedded on your boarding pass in the barcode. The barcode will be scanned by TSA who will then direct you to a TSA PreCheck lane.

In the PreCheck security lane, the following items would not need to be removed:

- 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on
- Laptop from bag
- Light outerwear or jacket
- Belts and shoes

It was noted that the TSA will still do random security checks and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.

Combined with the new airport construction, the PreCheck screening is expected to help make flying easier, mitigating the costs and hassles for businesses that require a lot of employee travel.

U of U tops in startups… again

Friday, February 24th, 2012

For the second year in a row, the University of Utah is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to starting university research-based companies, according to a survey released by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).

The newest survey measures the 2010 fiscal year (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010) where the U generated 18 startups. MIT followed in second despite spending nearly three times as much on research than Utah.

“Education is key to our economy in more ways than one,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Not only are we training our future employees, managers and CEOs, our university students and researchers can turn their ideas into viable businesses. It’s a win-win.”

The economic impact from the University of Utah’s startup companies in the 2010 fiscal year resulted in the creation of over 15,000 jobs, $754.5 million in personal income and $76.6 million in tax revenue.

“This achievement is again a testament not only to our world-class researchers and their innovative discoveries, but also to the university’s unique ability to deliver that life-changing technology to the people who need it most,” says A. Lorris Betz, interim president of the University of Utah. “In addition, the companies we produce give our community a much-needed economic boost, create jobs and grow Utah’s reputation as an innovations hub in the nation and world.”

The U launched its first startup in 1970. Since then, it has had more than 200 other research-based startups with 125 of them founded in just the past six years.

Ever since the U created the Technology Venture Development office in 2005, the school has consistently ranked high in the AUTM survey. In the past five years alone, the U has been one of the top two universities for startups, moving a head of MIT for the first time last year.

“Our success is a credit to our exceptional faculty, students and community,” says Jack Brittain, vice president for Technology Venture Development at the University of Utah. “We have a tremendous culture of innovation that makes Utah one of the friendliest places for inventors and entrepreneurs, and everyone in the state benefits from the resulting economic growth. We are also fortunate to have state and university programs that support technology development so we can create companies in Utah.”

The U also ranked higher than the national average in a couple other categories AUTM’s survey, with 287 active technology licenses (ntl. avg. 210), 208 invention disclosures (ntl. avg. 113) and 41 U.S. patents (ntl. avg. 24)

Brigham Young University also made the list with 13 startups along with other top-startup universities like Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Purdue—all with more than 10 new companies.

Gov. cuts unemployment tax

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Utah businesses are going to see a drop in the amount they pay for unemployment insurance.

This morning, Gov. Gary Herbert signed S.B. 129, the Unemployment Insurance Modifications bill, into law, putting $26.4 million back into the private sector.

The new law reduces the maximum unemployment insurance rate for all businesses paying at the highest rate. These are generally businesses with high levels of seasonal workers or high employee churn rates. These businesses will see their rates drop from 9.4 percent to 7.4 percent—meaning big savings for some.

For example, a company with 35 employees that was paying the highest rate would have paid nearly $100,000 in unemployment tax annually. That number will now drop to $80,000.

“This change could mean some reinvestment in technology or creating new positions,” said Aaron Call, regional vice president of G&A Partners, a licensed professional employer organization and H.R. outsourcing provider. “A business paying the maximum rate will save close to $600 per year, per employee.”

All businesses that were paying less than the highest rate will also see their rates decrease by 0.1 percent.

Over the last 12 months, the Utah economy has added over 30,000 jobs—an effort likely to get an additional boost with this tax cut. Utah’s unemployment rate is now six percent—two and a half points below the national rate—and our economy is growing at nearly two and a half times the rate of the U.S. economy.

Cutting tax rates means businesses will have more money to retain talent, invest in equipment and strengthen our economy.

USTAR funding key to Utah’s economic growth

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie reaffirmed the Chamber’s support for the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) at a news conference at the State Capitol today.

“Business leaders understand the difference between spending and investing,” said Beattie. “Money allocated for USTAR is an investment and it is a great investment. This initiative covers three top Chamber priorities – education, jobs and economic development – and positions Utah has a leader in the knowledge economy.”

This year, the Chamber has called on the Legislature to restore the $6 million of USTAR investment cut over the past three years, and to increase USTAR’s ongoing research allocation by $10 million. More than 40 prominent Utah business leaders have signed on to an effort to restore and increase USTAR funding, which has received 28 percent in funding cuts since fiscal year 2007.

Collaboration between higher education, entrepreneurs and industry have resulted in new start-up companies and job creation across the state. Now is a time of great opportunity as USTAR has excellent momentum, is gaining national reputation. Both Idaho and Nevada are modeling programs after USTAR.

Business leaders also understand when to buy and while other states’ programs are being underfunded, this is a “buyers” market for world-class research talent.

Following the news conference, USTAR researchers and partners showcased their successes in a dynamic display in the Capitol Rotunda. Eight USTAR research teams and six commercialization projects demonstrated the state’s most exciting emerging technologies, all of which are or have been supported by USTAR funding.

Chamber testifies in support of Utah Guest Worker law

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Editor’s note: The following is testimony given by Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President of Government Affairs against S.B. 157, a bill that would repeal the Utah Guest Worker law. The bill was unanimously tabled in committee. 

Good Morning.  I am Wesley Smith.  I serve as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Salt Lake Chamber.  The Salt Lake Chamber is a statewide chamber that represents 7,700 businesses and approximately half of the workforce of Utah. Utah business leaders have asked me to express the Chamber’s concern about Senate Bill 157.

Before I get to substantive comments, I’d like to say thank you to Sen. Urquhart for his professionalism.  His respectful discourse and civility on this difficult issue is appreciated by business and community leaders across the state.  While we disagree on this issue, we agree on many others and appreciate the work Sen. Urquhart is doing. Thank you, Senator.

It will probably come as little surprise that the Salt Lake Chamber opposes the repeal of the Utah Immigration Accountability and Enforcement Amendments, HB 116. The Salt Lake Chamber’s position on this issue, as stated in our 2012 Public Policy Guide, is that this state law should not be repealed.  We oppose any legislation that detracts from the unique Utah solution that was passed by the legislature just one year ago.

As many of you know, the Salt Lake Chamber helped create and promote The Utah Compact. We believe that the support of The Utah Compact, by community leaders, Utah’s religious community, law enforcement officers and other business associations set the path for a reasoned approach to immigration policy.  The Compact and Utah’s unique solution have been lauded nationally.  We are proud of The Compact and the influence it has had on the immigration discussion in our state and beyond.

We continue to believe that the first principle of The Utah Compact is fundamental in addressing immigration issues—that is that immigration is a federal policy that requires federal action. This is something that we can all agree on. We should spend more time working with the Utah’s federal delegation to address the root cause of this problem—a federal government that is failing us.

As part of Utah’s unique approach to immigration issues, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 466 and Gov. Herbert signed it into law.  H.B. 466 created the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration. This commission has been tasked, by state law, with studying this complex issue and creating a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state plan to address immigration policy in Utah. We continue to support this approach and urge policy makers to utilize this new commission for its stated purpose of creating a state plan to address immigration.


The hidden tax increase you never see coming

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

When the governor, legislative leadership and the Chamber come out against a tax increase, you can usually feel pretty secure. But there’s an interesting issue on Utah’s Capitol Hill this year, and it has everything to do with the cost—and potentially the availability—of your health insurance.

Call it the biggest hidden tax you’ve never heard about.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a.k.a the Affordable Care Act (ACA) a.k.a “Obamacare” passed the Congress in late 2010, with implementation of the plan set to take place in stages until the full law is in effect in 2018.

The biggest ACA-related changes go into effect in 2014.  The details are readily available online but, in short, that’s when access to health coverage increases (a good thing), but without cost-containing measures (not such a good thing).

This year, in preparation for the 2014 ACA changes, states are required to select one of four Essential Health Benefits packages. All four packages require that all state mandates be covered in the Essential Benefits Package. In other words, the Legislature has to determine what services will be part of the essential, required package.

Not surprisingly, special interest groups are already bombarding legislators with demands to cover an ever-expanding range of issues. They are particularly motivated because any mandates passed this year will be included in Utah’s essential benefit package under the Affordable Care Act—even if they are repealed by the state next year.

The choices the Legislature makes in determining what is “essential” and what is not, will have long-standing and far-reaching consequences.

Clearly there are elements that are essential—pre-natal care, for example. But for every essential element, there are dozens of not-so-essential ones. For example, mandating coverage of athletic trainers falls more into the category of a “want” rather than a “need.”

While these special interest groups fight for their particular service to be included in the Essential Benefits Package, it is business that is left to pick up the tab.

According to Kaiser, employer purchased health plans cover 61 percent of Utah’s insured population. Employers are already stretched thin by the skyrocketing cost of health care premiums. The average family plan in Utah costs $12,618 per year, of which employers pick up $9,073. With businesses picking up the majority of the cost for more than six in 10 Utahns, these mandates would cripple businesses’ ability to cover even the most essential health benefits and stifle economic growth.

Requiring insurers to cover more “essential” benefits will increase the cost of premiums. Businesses may absorb some of the increase, but ultimately, much of it will be passed onto employees. Many businesses could stop offering health benefits all together.

And just like that, you were hit with what essentially amounts to a tax increase.

The Salt Lake Chamber firmly opposes tax increases—including hidden mandates. As Utah’s largest and longest-standing statewide business association, representing 7,700 businesses and over 500,000 Utah workers—more than half the state’s workforce—the Chamber has been working to help legislators understand the impacts of adding to mandated coverage.

We encourage you to make your voice heard. Contact your State Representative or State Senator today and tell them to vote against unnecessary additions to the Essential Health Benefits package.

CLICK HERE to find your elected officials and to send a message.


Olympic legacy endures in community a decade later

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Hosting an event as significant as the 2002 Winter Olympic games has a lasting impact on the community. A decade after the world turned its attention to Salt Lake, the people of our state still benefit from those 16 amazing days.

“The Olympics touched every Utahn,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, who served as chief Olympic officer during the Games. “The human drama and satisfaction of sport – personal best, joy of effort, and fair competition – continue to inspire Utahns.”

“The Olympics became the first global event since the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” said Natalie Gochnour, executive vice president at the Salt Lake Chamber, who served as Gov. Mike Leavitt’s spokeswoman during the Games. “Our love of country and mankind took center stage, an experience buried deep in the hearts of Utahns. It was truly inspiring service we provided to the nation and to the world.”

The impact of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games extends beyond the playing field. The Cultural Olympiad remains part of the community as symbolized by the Chihuly “Torch” at Abravanel Hall.

More than 100 thousand trees were planted in Utah as a living Olympic legacy; 15 million trees were planted worldwide.

138,000 school children attended the Olympics at no charge. These Utahns now watch the Olympics in other countries with a first-hand knowledge of the excitement and drama of the Games. Every Utah high school received an Olympic torch to ensure the memory of the Games would remain for future generations of Utahns.

Utah overwhelmed the world with our spirit of generosity and volunteerism. Some 18,000 gave freely of their time and talents to ensure the success of the Games and to be a part of the Olympic experience. Volunteerism remains alive and well in Utah.

Utah’s immigration solution sets state apart in more ways than one

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Utah’s unique approach to the complex immigration issue is working. States that took a different approach—with an emphasis on enforcement—have seen the negative impact bad policy can have on a state economy.

Take a look at the three states that have passed enforcement-only immigration laws and compare their economies to Utah. While our economy grows at nearly 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the nation (3.0 percent compared to 1.3 percent), the three states that have taken the most hardline approach to immigration have much lower growth. Alabama’s economy is growing at a rate of  0.4 percent; Arizona’s rate is 1.5 percent; and Georgia has an economy that is contracting, with growth measured at -0.36 percent.

The Salt Lake Chamber has been a strong and vocal supporter of The Utah Compact, a document that lays out five principles to guide the immigration discussion. The Compact declares immigration to be a federal issue—a matter between the United States government and the governments of other countries, not between Utah and foreign countries.

The Utah Compact was the basis for the package of four bills passed last year, most notably the Utah Guest Worker Program, signed into law by Gov. Herbert. Utah law provides a way for existing residents who pass a criminal background check and meet basic health and insurance requirements to work legally in our state. This package of laws strengthens Utah’s economy. The Chamber strongly opposes any legislation that detracts from the Utah solution.

A broad group of business, community, civic and religious leaders worked to address the issue in a productive manner last year. Both the guest worker program and The Utah Compact have been applauded and emulated by several other states. Utah is a leader.

Reputation matters in business and Utah’s image was elevated by our approach to this complex issue.

Utah charted its own path on the immigration issue and we have avoided the negative impacts bad policy and our economy is much further down the road of recovery.


The Olympics established Utah’s global stature

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

When Salt Lake hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, it served as notice to the world that this was a state ready to compete—particularly in world markets.


“We have had remarkable success, particularly in the past five years,” said Lew Cramer, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah. “We have doubled our international exports over the past five years, we expect to set a new state-record for exports and export related jobs this year and a great deal of that can be traced back to the time we hosted the Olympics.”

To capitalize on Utah’s elevated status on the world stage, the state helped establish the World Trade Center Utah, an organization that has helped Utah double merchandise exports over the past five years. In 2010, Utah exports exceeded $13.5 billion.


Leaders from 77 countries and eight Presidential Cabinet members attended the Games. In addition, 220,000 people visited Utah during the Games.

Trade missions helped take advantage of the momentum created by the Games. The Utah Governor’s Office led post-Olympic trade missions to five countries: Canada, China, Mexico, Greece and Italy.


Utah/Salt Lake City’s image and awareness changed dramatically after the Games. Surveys in France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Holland yielded these results:

- One in five respondents had knowledge of Salt Lake City as the host city pre Olympics; one in three knew after the Games.

- One in ten respondents had knowledge of Utah as the host state pre Olympics; one in six knew after the Games.

- Europeans’ images of Utah’s mountains and deserts increased dramatically as a result of the Olympics.