Each year the Salt Lake Chamber visits Washington, D.C. with a group of business, community and state leaders. This trip represents a unique opportunity to connect our local leaders with members of our federal delegation.

Day 1

Bruce Melham on “Navigating the Age of Disruption”

From his controversial tweets to his off-message posts, in an age of disruption President Donald Trump has become known as the “Disruptor-in-Chief.”

Bruce Mehlam, Founder of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, joined the Salt Lake Chamber for a quick breakfast discussion Wednesday on how President Trump is winning and losing as “Disruptor-in-Chief.”

According to Mehlam, the big Trump wins include his approval rating among primary voters, the drastic drop in economically-significant regulations, and his impact on the federal judiciary. Where he loses is his inability to expand support beyond his base, the historically low staffing of the government, and his off-message tweeting that undermines policy pushes.

Tour of the Federal Reserve

Did you know the Federal Reserve Board Building, which houses the main offices of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, is named after Marriner S. Eccles?

Eccles was Chairman of the Federal Reserve under President Roosevelt. He was born in Logan, UT and became a U.S. banker, economist, and member and chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. The building was named after him by an Act of Congress on October 15, 1982. A bronze statue of “the father of the federal reserve,” now sits in the building’s lobby.

Lunch at Charlie Palmer Steak with Tevi Troy

When a disaster strikes everyone expects the President of the United States to get involved, but in the 19th century that wasn’t the case. During lunch at Charlie Palmer Steak, Tevi Troy told the story of the Johnstown flood of 1889 in which 2,000 people died. According to Troy, people of the Pennsylvania community sent word to President Harrison asking for help, but instead they received a telegraph back from Harrison explaining that disaster relief wasn’t really the role of the president, and encouraged the devastated population to instead reach out to the governor. It wasn’t until the Great Depression and WWII that the President of the U.S. was expected to get involved in disaster management.

Troy is the President of the American Health Policy Institute. He is also the author of Shall We Wake the President and What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House. Before he picked up his pen and began his career as a presidential historian, Troy was the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Senator Orrin Hatch

Minutes after announcing the Republican’s new tax reform plan, Senator Orrin Hatch met with Utah’s business leaders in the President Pro Tem Office. Hatch gave some insight into the plan that would cut corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, make it easier for companies to bring profits back to the United States, and lessen the number of tax brackets.

When asked how he plans to get bipartisan support for the plan, Senator Hatch responded, “It’s going to be tough, but I will. They can’t stand it, but I’m so open to them that they very well have to say ‘well, we better cooperate.'”

Jell-O with Senator Mike Lee, Senator Flake and Representative Mia Love

To quote from Senator Mike Lee’s website, Senator Lee “wants his Washington D.C. office to be a place where visitors from Utah feel at home.” That’s why he hosts “Jell-O Wednesdays.” Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah. The state even passed a resolution that, “the Senate of the State of Utah recognize Jell-O as a favorite snack food of Utah.”

During our visit with Senator Lee, we also got to here from Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Utah Congresswoman Mia Love. Senator Flake spoke about Senator John McCain’s opposition to the Graham-Cassidy health care bill saying of the senior Senator, “He said we’ve got to get back to regular order, and I agree with that.”

Rep. Mia Love took questions about the tax reform plan. She praised the package saying, “We’re going to have the economy growing again. This corporate tax rate is the lowest in American history.”

Reception with Gov. Herbert at AT&T Forum

Located just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the AT&T Forum serves as a place for conversations and events about technology, innovation and public policy. After many in our group took tours of the television studio located inside the Forum, we heard from Governor Gary Herbert about his dealings in Washington.

“The one-size-fits-all mentality that they have here in Washington does not work for the many,” said Herbert.

Day 2

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Day two of our Washington, D.C. Trip began at the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There our business leaders were invited to divide into breakout sessions. Attendees were able to choose four of the following topic discussions:

Political Affairs – Abby Majlak, Senior Director of Political Affairs
Tax Reform – J.D. Foster, Chief Economist
Trade Policy – Derek Gianino, Director of International Affairs
Education/Workforce – Lucy Davidson, Manager in the Center for Education and Workforce
Financial Services – Kristin Westmoreland, VP in the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness
Labor Policy – Sean Redmond, Exec. Dir. of the Workforce Freedom Initiative
Health Care Policy – Katie Mahoney, Executive Director of Health Policy
Energy Policy – Matt Koch, Global Energy Institute

Chris Stewart and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson

Rep. Chris Stewart served for 14 years as a pilot in the Air Force, flying both rescue helicopters and the B-1B bomber and he holds three world speed records, including the world’s record for the fastest non-stop flight around the world. His military expertise, and his position as a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, affords him the expertise required when influencing policy and diplomatic solutions to security issues facing our nation.

During our visit, Rep. Stewart answered questions on the threat the U.S. faces from North Korea. He referenced conversations he’d had with Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Fleet and said, “He said North Korea is the most dangerous situation, China is the most complicated situation that we face, and Russia is the existential threat that we face.” Stewart listed three things that need to happen now to avoid a military conflict. First, he said there needs to be an intense diplomatic effort. Second, the U.S. needs an enhanced missile defense shield. And third, the U.S. needs to engage with our allies.

Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson agreed and said pointedly, “If we get to the point where we have to rely on missile defense, it is the worst day in America.”

Secretary Wilson then spent some time talking with our business leaders about what Utah can do to support our military. First, Wilson said, states should work on having great schools. Secondly, states should have reciprocity for spouses of military members. Wilson pointed to how difficult it can be for military spouses who work as teachers, nurses, hair stylists, etc. to have to recertify every time they move to a new state. Wilson also applauded efforts made at Hill Air Force Base and the development of the Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park saying, “It goes a long way when states create facilities so the Air Force doesn’t have to.”

When asked what advice she has for young women, Secretary Wilson answered, “Find a dream that’s bigger than yourself, not a dream that society has for you.”

Pentagon Tour

We weren’t able to take any pictures at the Pentagon, but that didn’t make our tour any less memorable. Our group was broken into three groups and then taken on a 60-minute tour that included a 1.5 mile walk through the building that highlighted the missions of the five Armed Services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. Our tour also included a somber stop at the 9/11 memorial. The Pentagon Memorial includes both an inside and outdoor memorial dedicated to the 184 people who lost their lives when American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the building on September 11, 2001.

Washington Nationals Game

What’s better than going to a baseball game? How about catching a foul ball?

The Salt Lake Chamber group had seats in foul ball territory, right off the first base line at Nationals Park. More than a dozen balls flew over our seats and Dave Kallas from Clyde Companies was the lucky fan who caught one. Dave said it has always been a dream of his to catch a foul ball. We were so glad to be there to witness his dream come true.

Speaker Greg Hughes, Senator Todd Weiler and Governor Gary Herbert also joined us for the game, but alas Dave was the only one to walk away with a game ball. (Hughes didn’t want one anyway; he’s a life-long Pirates fan.)

Nationals beat the Pirates 5 – 4.

Day 3

Utah Honor Flight

A highlight for many on our trip was the opportunity to greet 49 Utah veterans at the World War II War Memorial. Governor Gary Herbert took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Utah memorial site.

“For so many of them, this is their first time to Washington, D.C. and it’s not just about coming and seeing the monuments, which are incredible and a great opportunity for them, but I think it’s just an opportunity for them to see the gratitude the people of Utah have,” said Derek Miller, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah. “As they got on the plane in Salt Lake City, people were clapping. As they got off the plane here in Washington, D.C. people were clapping. And, of course, we saw it here at the World War II Monument, just people who were here visiting spontaneously gathered and recognized the great sacrifice these veterans made.”

Hail to the Chiefs

After our visit to the WWII Memorial, the group headed back to the hotel to take part in the very popular “Hail to the Chiefs” panel discussion. This panel features the Chiefs of Staff from Utah’s Federal Delegation. These hard-working staff members described what their positions entail; the difficult, but satisfying challenges associated with life on Capitol Hill, and how they hope to strengthen the relationship between their offices and the Utah business community.

The Chiefs explained how business plays an important role in coordination and collaboration with our federal delegation. Both through the Chamber and directly with their offices, business must understand how to engage with our federal delegation to maximize our delegation’s influence and expertise.

Dynamic D.C. Transformation: Discussion on Homelessness

Downtown D.C., looked a lot different 20 years ago. The sidewalks were dark, prostitutes worked the streets near our nation’s capital and drugs were easy to find. Today it’s a much different place. Instead of finding homeless camps and discarded garbage on the streets of D.C., today you’ll find sidewalk cafes and food trucks. And the roads aren’t just filled with commuters in their cars, because now many people live in the downtown area and bike to work.

How did the dynamic D.C. transformation take place? That was the focus of a panel moderated by Utah Speaker Greg Hughes. Hughes, who has been very involved in the efforts to clean up Salt Lake City’s downtown area, spent some time explaining to the panel the highlights and pitfalls of Utah’s Operation Rio Grande.

We heard from Laura Zeilinger, Director of the Department of Human Services; Neil Albert, President and Executive Director of DowntownDC Business Improvement District;  Chapman Todd, Chief Executive Officer of Jaydot LLC;  and Christy Respress, Executive Director of Pathways to Housing DC.

Earlier this year, it was reported the number of homeless people living in D.C. dropped by over 10 percent from 2016 to 2017. The decline largely fueled by a 22 percent drop in the number of homeless families. “It’s showing that the investments that we’re making and the reforms that we are doing are working,” said Laura Zeilinger. “We certainly have a lot more work ahead of us. Nobody should have to experience homelessness in the District of Columbia, but we are building the systems in place to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.”