"Utah's economic condition is much better than many parts of the country, but that doesn't mean we are posh. If we keep our powder dry we will do well."
That's the way Gov. Norm Bangerter termed Utah's economic prospects at the annual meeting last month of the Wasatch Front Economic Forum, and the spate of plant closures and layoffs that have been announced in the three weeks since hasn't really invalidated that view.First Security Corp. economist Kelly K. Matthews is among those who retain a generally upbeat view of the state's economic outlook.
"We have clearly seen a slower economic environment locally in the last few months, but it's far from a negative performance that would equal the national downturn," said Matthews.
But there's a problem with comparing national recessions to state economic performance, he pointed out. The state has nothing equivalent to the national GNP by which to make direct comparisons, so it's difficult to say for sure whether Utah is in a recession.
Still, there are other economic measures, and among the most important, believes Matthews, is Utah's real estate sector, which paid its dues from 1985 to 1989 while other areas of the country were enjoying boom times.
"You have to believe that suffering and adjustment wouldn't have to be repeated (in Utah) again," he said.
Another key, he said, is that the state's rapidly growing labor force remains in place and, recession or not, will keep the state competitive for companies looking to change locations or expand into new areas.
Also, tourism is doing well locally as is high technology, particularly in Utah County.
Matthews is also encouraged that the problem of over-leveraged companies - the residue of takeover mania in the '80s - is pretty much absent locally. "I don't think there are many companies here that are facing severe debt problems and bankruptcy. So if the leveraged-debt problems get worse, it won't affect Utah." Max B. Knudson