Today’s crowd of around a thousand business, government, and education leaders heard the good, the bad, and the ugly about Utah economic recovery in 2010 and beyond. While morning keynote and former Wells Fargo Bank VP, Kelly Matthews stated that “headwind issues will trump tailwind ones” this year in Utah, he also quoted comparatively positive unemployment (6.5%) inventory, sales, and investment numbers that are among the strongest in the nation.
While Former Under Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Randal Quarles, talked about continued downside pressure in financial markets due to credit market meltdown and the spiraling U.S. national debt (80% expected growth in 2 years), others expressed optimism.
David Chen, Chair for the Oregon Innovation Council, shared an outsider view as one seeing Utah as “an enviable place to be” especially compared to other struggling western states. Governor Gary Herbert echoed this positive view pointing to growth sectors like hi-tech, cleantech, energy, biotech, financial, and healthcare. Having just met with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he said California’s governor may know what it is like to be the “captain of the Titanic.” Utah in contrast, Herbert said, has third parties gushing about our state’s relative strength:
#1 Most Dynamic Economy – Kauffman-State New Economy Index
#2 America’s Healthiest State – Forbes
#3 Best State for Business – Forbes
#1 Expected Economic Recovery – American Legislative Exchange
Multiple speakers including the Governor and GOED director, Spence Eccles, agreed that the support and growth of entrepreneurship is critical to the state’s ongoing economic health. In my more private meeting recently with the governor and Eccles as the the Chairman of the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum (UVEF), that point was driven home with the promise to promote an regulatory environment of limited government to allow entrepreneurs and the free market economy to thrive.