Permitting Delays Cost Jobs and Growth

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

 

What’s one of the fastest ways to create jobs for the 20 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed, or who have given up looking? Drive economic growth. And what’s one of the surest ways to hold that growth back? Stall job-creating projects with needless delays.

With unemployment chronically high and our economic recovery limping along, you’d think our leaders would tear down every possible barrier to growth and jobs. Yet across the country, key projects are being held up by shortsighted government policies, a legal system run amok, extreme environmentalists, “not in my backyard” activism, and those who want to “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.” From 1998 to 2006, the time it took to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for an energy or infrastructure project ranged from 51 days to 18.4 years with an average span of 3.4 years. With each passing year, the average time to complete an environmental review has increased by 37 days.

These delays are costly. When bureaucrats dither with applications, and when ideology-driven obstructionists jam up the works, projects stop, workers get laid off, and economic activity halts. According to the U.S. Chamber’s Project/No Project study, there are more than 350 stalled construction projects nationwide that could—if we get them online—infuse $1.1 trillion into our economy in the short term and create 1.9 million jobs annually.

The president announced in January that he would sign an executive order to help alleviate permitting delays. In March he took a small step by calling on agencies to adopt best permitting practices and find ways to track projects. But we were hoping for a serious executive order to establish a lead agency that would manage the permitting process within specific timelines so projects can hurry up and move into the construction phase.

Until we have a permitting process that’s fundamentally predictable, fair, timely, and transparent, the job-crushing delays will persist. To get to the heart of the matter, the Chamber is supporting the RAPID Act, a new piece of legislation to streamline permitting. The bill would designate one agency to lead on processing permits and approvals. It would encourage agencies to get involved early in the process. Reviews by state regulatory agencies would be accepted to avoid redundancy. And Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments—currently two distinct steps in the review process—would be consolidated to eliminate duplicative work.

We have a choice. We can continue shooting ourselves in the foot with a needlessly cumbersome permitting process. Or we can streamline it and speed up economic growth and job creation. This isn’t a tough call.

 

This article was written by Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

WTC at City Creek gives Utah a global identity

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

One of the Chamber’s strategic partners now has a new home.

The World Trade Center Utah (WTCU), which had offices in the Chamber for several years, officially has a place of its own, the Eagle Gate Tower which was re-named World Trade Center at City Creek. The new offices will be the home of WTCU, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) and the Office of Energy Development (OED).

“This new marquee name and the ‘Team Utah’ tenants in this building add global business identity and expertise to our urban community,” said Mark Gibbons, president of City Creek Reserve, Inc.

WTCU President and CEO Lew Cramer says locating all tour entities in the same building will improve collaboration and enable them to better serve Utah’s businesses who are seeking to grow their international presence.

“Our co-location with USTAR, WTC Utah and OED is an opportunity that demonstrates Governor Herbert and the State legislature’s commitment to a forward-looking economic development plan,” said Spencer Eccles, executive director of GOED. “Thanks to that commitment, and some truly inspired collaboration, the private-public partnership of ‘Team Utah’ in the newly renamed World Trade Center at City Creek will continue to support the private sector that is the engine powering Utah’s globally renowned and business friendly environment.”

Thanks to this kind of pro-business environment, Utah consistently ranks high in national and international ratings when it comes to the economy, business and management with awards like Forbes’ “Best State for Business and Careers” and “Most Fiscally Fit State.”

 

Forbes lists SLC as top city for tech jobs

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Silicon Valley may be the home of most technology-based businesses, but many are finding a second home in Utah.

According to Forbes, Salt Lake City is one of the best cities for tech jobs thanks to the spurt of the technology opportunities over the past decade.

With Adobe, Electronic Arts and Twitter now calling Utah home and more businesses on the way, it’s only natural that tech opportunities would crop up.

Salt Lake City ranks fourth among 51 of the nation’s major cities in regards to tech and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematic-related) job growth.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a 31 percent surge in tech employment in SLC with a growth of 7.6 percent within the past two years alone. STEM employment is also up almost 18 percent in the last decade.

The reason for the “technology boom” in Salt Lake? Aside from the obvious natural beauty and the expansive list of available activities, businesses are attracted to Utah’s lower taxes and more flexible regulatory environment. They also are starting to recognize the state has a well-educated and multilingual workforce. All of this can mean higher profits—and more better paying jobs.

Forbes says the most critical factor is housing prices, stating that about “three-quarters of Salt Lake area households can afford a median-priced house,” whereas fewer residents in Silicon Valley or San Francisco are able to do so.

Salt Lake City comes in behind the metro areas of San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, which came in first with 12 percent tech job growth in the last two years.

To see the gallery of the top tech cities in the U.S., click here.

Making business leaders out of teenagers… no, seriously

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Forbes magazine once again ranked Utah as the number one Best State for Business and Careers. Forbes stated, “No state can match the consistent performance of Utah. It is the only state that ranks among the top 15 states in each of the six main categories we rate the states on.”

Businesses have taken note and are coming to Utah. Procter & Gamble, ITT, Home Depot, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Adobe Systems, eBay and many more are coming to Utah or expanding their operations here. 

In order for Utah to stay at the top of the list we need an educated and talented workforce.

High school seniors Joel Gardner and Caitlin Carr have an edge over their competition. They attended Utah Business Week (UBW) in 2011 and endured a week-long crash course on business.

“It is a great experience for anyone,” said Carr. “You do not need to have any previous knowledge or even like business to enjoy Utah Business Week.  It is something anyone would enjoy no matter what. It was a great way to learn and have fun at the same time.”

The week follows an intensive program that begins with breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and lights out at 11:00 p.m. During the hours between, students are organized into groups or “companies” of 10 to 12 with an advisor from the Utah business community. They decide on a product to market and go through a business simulation program that provides students with real-world decisions and situations. Students are also exposed to speakers and presentations that address how the experiences they are going through are handled in business today.

“I was extremely pleased and surprised by the quality of the speakers at UBW,” said Taylorsville High School senior Joel Gardner.  “I had the opportunity to learn from business professionals that had real experience. Each presenter had something valuable and unique to share and I was thoroughly impressed by each of them.”

Students also get the chance to see business in motion with company tours of local businesses in Cache Valley.

“I’d say the most overall interesting and informative part of UBW was when our company got to tour Heartland Foods that produces Creamies frozen treats,” continued Gardner. “We had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at all the different steps of the production process. My company and I thoroughly enjoyed a close up look at what it takes to start and maintain a profitable business.”

Corporations across Utah sponsor a majority of the $600 cost per student. Students are only responsible for $100. Included is room and board at USU dorms plus all activities. Sponsors include Wasatch Property Management, WCF, Questar and many others. Many of the supporting companies also provide an employee who takes on the role as an advisor to a group of 10 to 12 students during the week.

“It’s amazing the transformation we see from the first day of the program to graduation six days later,” said Peggy Larsen, board chair of Utah Business Week and senior executive at Workers Compensation Fund. “We see kids who had little interest in business in the beginning become CEOs of their companies, manage a group of their peers and go on to be leaders in their high schools and communities. This program makes a big impact on the lives of young people. UBW is also great for the Utah businesses that participate and have the chance to encounter these young, bright future leaders.”

This year Utah Business Week runs from July 29 through August 4. Go to utahbusinessweek.org to register or to find out how your company can help support this great program.

Editor’s note: this post was author by Ray Pickup, vice chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors and the President and CEO of Workers Compensation Fund of Utah.

SLC named one of the happiest cities for college grads

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

If you just graduated college and are looking for a job, want to get paid well and be happy, then you may want to head to Salt Lake City. Utah’s capital is one of the happiest cities for college graduates looking for a job.

According to Forbes and CareerBliss.com, Salt Lake City ranks second in the country when it comes to the satisfaction of recent college graduates in the workforce. The online career website determined the happiest cities for job-seeking college graduates from an analysis of surveys submitted by people holding down jobs that require less than two years of work experience.

Employees across the nation were asked to rank factors that contribute to workplace happiness on a five-point scale. First they evaluated factors based on experience within their company and then ranked those factors on how important they are to their overall satisfaction.

The top 10 cities were then decided by comparing the average cost-of-living-adjusted salary, which is determined by the median pay for new grads in each city, with the cost of living in the area. SLC earned an index score of 4.11 with an average cost-of-living-adjusted salary of $43,010.

LISTEN: KSL News Radio talks to the Chamber about jobs for new graduates

An interesting finding was that no major cities, (think New York City or Los Angeles) made the cut. Life in the big city proved too expensive—the cost of living was too high in comparison to the average salary for recent graduates. The survey shows new graduates tend to prefer cities where they can have more disposable income.

St. Louis, Miss. earned the top spot on the list with a score of 4.12 and an average cost-of-living-adjusted salary of $50,900.

Other cities where post-graduates find the most workplace satisfaction include Jacksonville, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and Houston, Texas.

To see the gallery of the list, visit Forbes.com.

When the economy and elections collide

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Editor’s note: this post was authored by Darin Mellott, senior analyst at CBRE, and was originally published on ksl.com. Mr. Mellott is a member of the Chamber’s Utah Economic Council.

The United States is potentially only months away from one of the most predictable recessions in its history. Last month, I wrote about the tax increases and spending cuts that are already written into law and set to take effect in 2013. This dire scenario is now commonly referred to as the 2013 “fiscal cliff” or “taxmageddon” in Washington D.C. Last month’s column addressed what it means to the average tax payer, but it is worth examining what all of this means in the broader context of an election year and a slowing global economy.

The combination of tax increases and automatic spending cuts carry a value of $500 billion on an annualized basis. To give some perspective, this hit is equivalent to nearly 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). First quarter GDP growth was reported at 2.2 percent according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and some expect that figure to be revised downward due to recent trade data.

The point is this: The U.S. economy is not growing at a pace that would allow it to continue expanding in the face of such a large and sudden adjustment.

Predictable Crises

It is a troubling fact that the fiscal cliff is one of many predictable crises that the U.S. will face if action is not taken. The need to address Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is also known, but largely avoided due to political reasons. However, this is the most urgent issue relating to the nation’s finances and economy in 2012. Keep in mind that the U.S. is set to hit its debt ceiling during the fall as well. Combine these events with the spotlight of a Presidential election and you have an amplification of the problem, similar to 2008 when crisis management was caught up in the middle of campaign season.

Market Reaction

If the political climate shapes up the way that it is expected to, markets will react unfavorably to extreme uncertainty and don’t just take my word for it. Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO of Pimco, a west coast financial firm with almost $1.5 trillion in assets under management, recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post talking about how markets will react. El-Erian writes that if nothing is done to address this problem, “the economy will slow during the summer, ratings agencies will again get nervous and the political environment will become even more polarized.”

El-Erian then follows-up with some advice, “It is unfortunately once again time to fasten your economic seat belts.”

If the violent market reaction of 2011 was any indication, it will again react poorly to such extreme uncertainty. In fact, the President of the Chicago Federal Reserve district, Charles Evans, at the Milken Conference said that the fiscal cliff is, “as big an uncertainty as I can imagine anybody facing.”

If you have not picked up on it yet, this is a big deal.

Train Wreck

Most believe that at the last minute congress will intervene, which is a fair assumption to make. However, the risk of policy error increases. What is policy error? In basic terms, policy error risk is the possibility that a response by lawmakers and the President is incomplete or incorrect or a combination of the two, which would allow economic damage to occur.

Speaking on the difficulty of addressing the impending economic disaster during a compressed legislative calendar, in a CNBC interview, House Speaker John Boehner said that before the election, “The House is going to act to extend the current tax rates.” Further elaborating, the Speaker explained why action was required before the election, “Otherwise we’re going to have this mess all stacked up until after the election. And you want to talk about a train wreck? You’re talking about a big one.”

Unfortunately, most analysts and policymakers expect that nothing will be done before the elections and Speaker Boehner does not sound any more optimistic, “I’ve been in Washington long enough to know I shouldn’t have high expectations.”

Angry Voters

If you’re reading this and becoming angry, you have every right to be. One unique characteristic of 2012 is that it is a consequential election year in the U.S. and around the world. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy was ousted in favor of Francois Hollande, and in Greece, a population under tremendous economic stress, voted unlike any election in recent history. Economic despair is allowing extreme political elements to gain power. A neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, won 7 percent of the vote in Greek parliamentary elections. Fortunately, in the United States, such extreme political elements are still on the sidelines of any legitimate discussion. However, lessons of caution should be drawn.

Campaign Fantasy

A U.S., and Utah electorate, may be tempted out of frustration to demand extreme action and vote for candidates promising the purest agenda and unrealistic promises of uncompromising policy victory. However, whether you’re on the right in a conservative state like Utah or the left in a liberal leaning state like California, such hyperbole is campaign fantasy.

In the real world, extremes sent to Washington have to deal with each other. The fact of the matter is that gridlock over the next six to nine months would result in economic disaster for reasons mentioned above. It is time for policymakers to wrap up the debates and make some tough decisions. Yes, principle is important and so is representation of constituencies; but in addition to principle, strategy leading to effectiveness is just as important. A candidate that perfectly matches one’s views, but is unable to implement their vision would be as useful as a high performance motor without a transmission.

The election of 2012 is when the rubber must hit the road; we need policymakers to act and they don’t have much time. Voters will determine with their decisions the degree of progress that will be made. Hopefully, candidates able to move the national agenda forward will prevail. Voters need to be strategic and think about how best progress can realistically be achieved toward their desired outcome.

In other words, it is not wise to drink the spiked punch of campaign rhetoric. Critical times require sober voters.

Head of Deseret Digital Media, Deseret News discusses disruptive change

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

They say the only constant is change and for many businesses it’s an even bigger kind of change–disruptive change.

“All innovation is not equal,” said Clark Gilbert, CEO of Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media (DDM). “Disruptive shifts can create a whole new industry.”

Gilbert was the keynote speaker at the Salt Lake Chamber-sponsored luncheon held as part of the Great Salt Lake Expo at the South Towne Expo Center. He says industries that handle disruptive change correctly, actually expand.

The Deseret News is Utah’s oldest business and today it’s the fastest growing newspaper in the nation by circulation seeing 50 percent revenue growth three years in a row. Those numbers are even more impressive when you realize the average growth rate for the industry is actually no growth at all, it’s a ten percent decrease.

To manage that change, Gilbert has embraced an approach that required starting a new company to do things a new way, rather than trying to adapt an existing organization. DDM reaches ten-times the amount of people it did just a few years ago. One property of DDM, ksl.com, drives more traffic than CNN.com when you include the traffic to the online classified ads.

“Newspapers are a variety show,” said Gilbert. “They are a little bit of everything from non-experts. But on the web you have to be the best at what you do because if you’re not, better is just a click away.”

Gilbert says newspapers and TV are far from the only industries to face disruptive change, noting telecommunications, education, transportation and health care have all faced the same issues.

Made in America makes a comeback

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Made in America is making a comeback.

The U.S. manufacturing industry seems to be gaining ground again after manufacturing jobs fell 33 percent between 2000 to 2010.

According to a recent Brookings study, the country as a whole saw a 2.7 percent increase in manufacturing jobs between 2010 and 2011.

Brookings found that manufacturing is a place-specific industry, mostly centered in the top 100 metropolitan areas in the nation. You can find the interactive map highlighting the statistics for the different metro areas here. When manufacturing businesses are located in close quarters with similar businesses, Brookings suggests this promotes innovation and the hiring of highly skilled, thus highly paid, workers.

Utah is no exception to this “manufacturing moment”—the state’s metropolitan areas are on the manufacturing bandwagon and are seeing modest increases, as well.

Salt Lake City experienced the fifth lowest drop in the country in manufacturing jobs when the U.S. manufacturing job market dropped.  Brookings found that between 2010 and 2011, there was a 5.8 percent increase in manufacturing jobs in Salt Lake City, a 6.8 increase in the Provo-Orem metro area and an 8.4 percent increase in Ogden-Clearfield.  In fact, Ogden-Clearfield ranked 11th out of the nation’s top 100 metro areas in this growth.

With the shift in the manufacturing scene, the need for highly trained engineers will likely increase–meaning education will play an even more critical role in the economic development as factories make more innovative and sophisticated products.

Businesses know an educated workforce is a critical element of enduring prosperity, and can make the difference in a successful and innovative products and business plans.

The business community stands in support of the Prosperity 2020 movement to strengthen Utah’s economy through improving education. Part of that objective is helping two-thirds of Utahns earn academic degrees or skilled trade certificates by the year 2020 and to have  Salt Lake rank in the top 20 metropolitan areas for concentration on science and engineering occupations.

Utah’s rising exports and the need for more FTAs

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

The constant bright spot in a tough economy, Utah exports continued to grow through the first part of 2012.

Utah’s first quarter exports (Jan-March 2012) totaled $5.17 billion—a 22 percent increase from the first quarter of 2011, which saw $4.25 billion in exports.

World Trade Center Utah President and CEO Lew Cramer says this growth is heading forward at a “blistering pace,” setting Utah up to have over $20 billion in total exports for the whole year.

International exports are a big component in the Utah Jobs Agenda, a 10-point plan to create 150,000 jobs in five years. And those billions of dollars in exports translate into more support for both new and existing Utah jobs.

Another bit of good news today is that a Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia has now come to fruition. This agreement is expected to increase U.S. GDP by nearly $2.5 billion and U.S. merchandise exports by $1.1 billion.

Free Enterprise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes that “more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders and their demand for American goods and services is growing every day.”

This is why it’s important for all businesses to look into exports and how they can optimize their efforts outside the boundaries of the U.S. You may not think your business has anything worth exporting, but odds are, it does.

The issue that remains is that exports need a monumental kick in order for the U.S. to really see growth and more jobs from it. It’s not just large businesses that can export—any business can become involved, even small firms. If your business needs help entering profitable global markets, contact the World Trade Center Utah.

Incentive programs can make a difference in your employees’ health

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Some would argue that Americans don’t change behavior easily. That would explain why nearly two-of-three American adults are still overweight or obese, 60 percent don’t exercise and more than 20 percent still smoke. Additionally, 90 percent of those who join health and fitness clubs stop going within the first 90 days.

We know that healthier choices are better for individuals, their families, their employers and the U.S. economy as a whole. How can we encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices?

Incentives for Well-Being

Research shows that Americans are ready for a health rewards program.

The majority of 1,000 adults in a July 2011 survey for HumanaVitality, a comprehensive wellness, reward and loyalty solution, said they should be rewarded for making healthy choices. And 59 percent said they would like to be rewarded for exercising.

Health reward solutions don’t just benefit individual consumers. With rising health care costs and a desire to reduce absenteeism, employers have a significant interest in encouraging their employees’ pursuit of well-being. A growing number of employers are now including non-cash incentives in their wellness solutions. A survey of 157 large employers found that 62 percent offered incentives in 2010, up from 57 percent the previous year.

Research shows incentives make a real difference in people’s health. A good weight-loss incentive solution can increase employee participation rates from 12 percent to 35 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, a 2010 study from the American Journal of Health Promotion shows individuals who regularly participated in the Vitality solution experienced shorter and fewer hospital stays than those who didn’t participate.

Make it Personal

The main drivers of success are personalized plans and the ability of participants to self-select their rewards. In the case of HumanaVitality, this approach works in two ways. First, HumanaVitality provides participants with personal pathways they can follow as individuals to improve their health and well-being. Next, participants who pursue those pathways earn points that allow them to choose among more than 600,000 rewards ranging from electronics to vacations to charitable donations.

The key is self-selection: choosing the pathway to follow and working toward redeeming rewards that are personally motivating and significant. HumanaVitality is based on a philosophy that rewarding small, personalized steps today – taking a few extra minutes to exercise, choosing one more healthy meal a day – can add up to meaningful change over time.

In a time when companies regularly use rewards to earn brand loyalty of the American consumer, Utah companies should stop to consider if they are doing enough to build loyalty. Solutions like HumanaVitality reward consumers for making healthy choices in the short run, but the real payoff – the biggest reward of all – is sustainable change toward long-term health and well-being.

 

This article was written by M. Curt Howell, a market president for Humana with responsibility for commercial operations in Utah, Arizona and Nevada.