In the rodeo sport of team penning, three riders face a herd of cattle in which each animal has been given a number. At a signal, the riders must shoot forward, strategically separate all the cattle that have similar numbers from the rest of the herd, and maneuver them into a pen on the other side of the arena while keeping all the other cattle from crossing a foul line. The riders have 60 to 90 seconds to do this, all while keeping track of what the other riders are doing and where all the cattle are the whole time. It calls for teamwork, skill, speed and communication, with the added pressure of racing against a clock.
Lane Beattie, named president of the Salt Lake Chamber in July 2003, is a Quarter Horse team penning champion, who at one time helped set a record for the state in the sport. That surprises most people who know him mostly from his work as a businessman, legislator and Olympic official. But, the skills necessary for team penning aren’t bad qualities for a Chamber executive to have.
Beattie, in fact, was pursued for the job of heading the Chamber by a search committee looking for a successor to Larry Mankin, who resigned in 2002. They were seeking someone who, as Scott Anderson, president of Zions Bank put it, “knew the players and was a player himself in the community.” The name that kept coming up was Beattie’s. At first he wasn’t interested at all, for many reasons, “most of them very selfish,” Beattie recalls. He was looking forward to returning to his real estate business. But, with the encouragement of other people and organizations, he changed his mind.
In choosing Beattie, the Chamber’s Board of Governors set a new course for the organization, one that would make it more policy-driven than in the past. “We thought the Chamber should be more of a voice for the business interests in the state,” said Anderson, who was then chair of the Chamber’s board. “The members wanted a strong government relations effort — that was number one — and they wanted to be a force in economic development.”
The Chamber had, in fact, previously lost some of its clout in the community. This was, in part, because Utah was changing as businesses consolidated to other locations, and because the state was becoming more complex, more diverse and more divided. Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake mayor, wrote that when he was first elected in 1975, “I was told that I had to meet certain people, cultivate them and then engage them.” So he forged bonds with Kem Gardner, Izzy Wagner, Joe Rosenblatt, Calvin Rampton, John Klas, N. Eldon Tanner, Wendell Ashton, Jack Gallivan, George Eccles and many others he called the “dreamers and schemers.” Later community leaders (he wrote in 2003) were effective in their own areas, but “these powerful people don’t have a common Utah vision to serve like the old days.” That was a problem the Chamber’s board wanted to address.
By choosing Beattie, the board also signaled that it wanted the Chamber to be seen as a statewide influence, especially since its membership represented one out of three employers in Utah.
Beattie, one of eight children, was born in Idaho, but grew up in Centerville. At the time, Centerville was still pretty rural and their home had acreage with horses.
“Sometimes, he’d be called home from school to put the horses back after they’d broken free,” relates his wife, Joy. This is where his life-long love of horsemanship began, and eventually led him into rodeo sports in high school.
Later in life, Beattie and his wife indulged their love of animals and bought 12 acres in West Bountiful “within sight of the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake,” said Joy, where they built a large house and barn. They have had a menagerie, including geese, chickens, ducks, cats, cows and dogs. (They once had a buffalo named Bubba, who came when his name was called, but they gave him to a zoo when he got too large.)
Beattie’s mother, Vivian, an honors teacher, drilled her children in classic literature and fine art. She was even known to correct their letters home for grammatical mistakes. A side effect of her training and influence is that, when he travels throughout the state he usually has a book on tape playing in the car. His children grew up knowing who Zig Ziglar was, for instance, from the many motivational tapes Beattie played.
Beattie was a successful realtor and developer who was elected to the Utah State Senate in 1989 and was Senate President just five years later. He was president of the Senate for six years. His colleague, U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop, later paid tribute to him for his ability to build consensus and for his commitment to lowering taxes. “The Utah Taxpayers Association, in presenting Lane the Taxpayers Advocate Award in 1999, estimated that, during his leadership in the Senate, permanent tax cuts amounting to $1 billion were enacted,” said Bishop.
While in the State Senate, Beattie was chairman of the National Senate Presidents Forum; headed a delegation from the U.S. to China; spoke before the European Union in Florence, Italy; and became a guest speaker and lecturer. After 12 years, he decided to leave the Senate in 2000.
A month later, he was asked by Gov. Mike Leavitt to be the state’s Chief Olympics Officer, in charge of coordinating the state’s legal, financial and intergovernmental arrangements for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. “My job was to protect the state and make sure the state ended up looking good as a whole,” said Beattie.
Beattie played a crucial role in the success of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the largest international event in Utah’s history. NBC President Dick Ebersol called the 2002 Games, “Far and away the most successful Olympics, summer or winter, in history.”
It was reported the stint at the Olympics gave Beattie a much broader picture of the state than was available in the Legislature, and helped him build contacts that would ultimately prove helpful to the Chamber.
“In my view, he knew everyone in the state, he understood them. So we courted him and he came on,” said Scott Anderson.
When he joined the Chamber in 2002, Beattie knew four major issues needed to be addressed. The first was to heal the wounds in the community that erupted out of the Main Street Plaza development. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after buying Main Street from the city, developed a park and pedestrian walkway that was embroiled in a federal lawsuit over free access and speech issues. (See article on Downtown Rising on page 42 for more details.) “We needed to make sure from the business community that we would do all we could to make sure that whatever the result was (with a court decision), that we wouldn’t allow it to be a divisive issue any more…we worked a lot beyond the scenes,” said Beattie.
The second issue involved Nordstrom, a coveted department store, which was threatening to leave the city in a dispute over whether it could move its store from the downtown area to the new Gateway mall. Again, the community was divided. “Blake Nordstrom himself stood in Salt Lake City and said either the city council changes the ordinance… or they would leave,” explained Beattie.
“Another one of my responsibilities was to do whatever needed to be done to keep Nordstrom in
Salt Lake City… In my early days, I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Seattle, and trying to get to know as many people there as I could in the Nordstrom organization,” said Beattie. “It was a hard sell, and a lot of people and organizations became involved. I tried to make it clear where we were as a community, and what the assets were, and what we felt the long-term benefits would be to work with us to stay in Salt Lake City.”
In the end, after the involvement of many individuals and organizations, Nordstrom was won over, especially when it saw the scope of the plans The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had for its downtown properties that eventually became the City Creek Center.
This became another issue Beattie faced early on. The image of downtown had to be changed. Before, and even during, the Olympic Winter Games, there weren’t many positive articles about downtown. Store fronts were boarded up, retail sales sagged. When American Stores merged with Albertsons and left downtown, the effect was “widespread, pervasive and really regrettable,” according to an analysis by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The Bureau pointed out that, in reality, office space and job growth were the backbone of downtown. But, the image of downtown in the community was not good.
“We had to have a true paradigm shift,” said Beattie. “The talk was very negative and the cost to the community was substantial. Then, as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ plans for downtown evolved into a massive $1.5 billion redevelopment project, it was very important for the Church, and the commitment they were willing to make in the community, that they weren’t going to be the only ones.” From this concern, and the commitment of the Chamber, came the Downtown Rising project, designed by the Chamber under the direction of Natalie Gochnour, a policy expert and former counselor to Gov. Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She returned to Utah as a vice president of the Chamber.
The fourth major issue was political. The image of Salt Lake City with the Utah State Legislature was not good. The city was a Democratic enclave in a very Republican state. Moreover, while the city itself strongly supported its mayor, Rocky Anderson, everywhere outside of Salt Lake City, the support was anything but robust. The mayor’s passions, and especially his relations with the neighboring cities in Davis County, had created a “huge wedge” — not intentionally, Beattie is convinced — “but people did everything they could to not support downtown issues.” The mayor’s opposition to a new Legacy Highway, sorely needed in Davis County, hurt the city in the Legislature even though his four filings in the case were thrown out early.
As Beattie was a Davis County resident, he thought he also had an opportunity to help. “I think my role in that helped a lot. I think the fact that I had served as president of the Senate meant it was not looked upon as a Salt Lake City entity only.” Moreover, when the Chamber’s board decided the Chamber should be more active politically, they recruited a seasoned
political veteran. Robin Riggs, president of the Utah market of Qwest, became a vice president of the Chamber and the Chamber’s face at the Legislature. Riggs was a former general counsel for Gov. Mike Leavitt.
“So, all of a sudden, the Chamber was present full-time at the Legislature and on Capitol Hill,” said Scott Anderson. “We were talking to the governor, the Legislature, government agencies, and officers of cities and counties. We were designing the Chamber agenda and identifying legislation that could help or hurt business.”
The Chamber was also willing to buy newspaper ads and use other means to support its position, added Craig Peterson, its chief operating officer at the time and the interim president after Mankin’s resignation. The Chamber took a strong position on transportation improvements and lobbied hard for a transit tax. In 2006, it led the charge to fund two of the largest locally-funded transportation projects in U.S. history: the I-15 CORE project in Utah County and UTA’s FrontLines 2015 Project. The Chamber stands as a champion of transportation investment in rural and urban Utah, benefiting the entire state. (See article on Public Policy on page 26 for more details.)
The book The CEO as Urban Statesman credited Beattie this way: “Beattie has an exceptional talent for working behind the scenes, energizing the folks out front and capitalizing on expertise and talent.” The book also acknowledges his ability to collaborate with Salt Lake CEOs on the Chamber’s transportation initiative. “Neither would have been successful without the other. Beattie, a skilled political operative with the weight
of the Chamber behind him, had connections and incredible understanding of Utah’s political landscape.”
While transportation and downtown Salt Lake were both heavy commitments for the Chamber, “people forget that there were other issues we were involved with over time,” said Beattie. That included economic development, which had always been one of the Chamber’s major goals. Working with Utah’s two research universities, the University of Utah and Utah
State University, the Chamber led the way in developing the USTAR program (Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative). Its goal was to funnel seed money into recruiting and attracting research teams, and to provide them with new laboratories and equipment. The idea was to capitalize on the research already being done at universities in the state.
The Chamber also took leadership roles in promoting World Trade Center Utah, working hand in hand with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to provide a platform for Utah businesses to become more engaged in a growing worldwide economy. (See article on World Trade Center Utah on page 54 for more details.) The Chamber also took a position on immigration reform, supporting a policy that children of undocumented parents should be able to pay in-state college tuition rates.
Beattie’s commitment to education has also contributed to the formation of the largest business-led movement assembled to advance education investment and innovation in Utah, called Prosperity 2020. The movement’s vision is for the state’s educated and trained workforce to propel Utah to enduring prosperity. Building Utah’s workforce successfully requires collaboration and communication between business and education, to drive the development of Utah’s most valuable resource: its people.
Additionally, Beattie’s leadership worked to support pro-business policies. For example, the Chamber has convened the Energy Resources Task Force to conserve energy, develop new sources of energy, and preserve low-cost energy that attracts business to Utah to benefit all Utahns. Beattie also convened the state’s business community to better understand and engage in Utah’s need for water infrastructure and conservation so that Utah will not be limited in the future by this precious resource.
In other policy-related initiatives, the Chamber supported Delta Air Lines in order to strengthen its Salt Lake City hub and bring international flights to the airport. The Chamber also joined the United Way of Salt Lake on its Financial Stability Council and helped jump start a serious policy debate to help Utah be a leader in health care reform. Craig Peterson said, “Health care was the number one concern of the Chamber’s small business members in every poll they’ve taken.”
In short, added Gochnour, who succeeded Peterson as the Chamber’s COO in 2008, “It’s a policy-rich Chamber. The Board of Governors thrives on these discussions.”
The Chamber even took a position not all of its members agreed with, such as a controversial statewide school voucher referendum. The feeling was that if the Chamber wanted to be seen as credible and involved, it should speak out on major issues for the city and state. The Chamber ended up on the losing side of the voucher debate. Also abandoned by the Chamber was a hotly-debated proposal to move the Catholic Community Services and Road Home homeless shelters, from their locations near The Gateway and Pioneer Park, to a new homeless campus a few blocks south.
Nevertheless, Scott Anderson, who championed the change in the Chamber’s direction thanks to Beattie’s leadership, said, “If you are a single big business and you push for something, you can be seen as self-serving. And a small business can’t afford the lobbying and communication effort. It costs too much. Mostly, the work is to be a consensus; people find ways to work together. The Chamber gives them a place where you can get a discussion on what needs to be done.”
A newspaper column in 2003 said Utah was in dire need of leaders and asked rhetorically whether there was a leadership vacuum in the state. Four years later, that same column paid tribute to the Chamber for its help in “filling the vacuum.” This was just after the Chamber and Downtown Alliance presented their long-range vision for the city.
“With Beattie’s leadership,” said one author, “and a number of strong chairs over the last few years, the Chamber has become a go-to organization, providing crucial leadership on big issues like transportation funding and downtown revitalization.”
In the old days, the Chamber led out in areas ranging from promoting tourism and building airport hangars, to providing welfare relief and flying airplanes to check for smoke violations. It helped land professional basketball and launched the pursuit of the Olympics. But, Utah had changed and become more fragmented. “It was now a high-tech, information- saturated, diverse society where power didn’t flow to a handful of people,” said an observer.
Still, the need for leadership was there, and the Chamber was back at the table as a valued player — with Beattie at the helm of it all. What unfolded is an interesting story in business leadership.