The good news for Utahns is this: you're living in the right place at the right time.
Key Bank of Utah Chief Economist Jeff K. Thredgold told a breakfast gathering of business and civic leaders at the Marriott Hotel Monday that Utah's economy is one of the strongest in the nation, leading in new job creation, construction, tourism and the most sought-after prize of all: high technology.Speaking at a state-of-the-economy forum sponsored by Key Bank of Utah and its parent company, Key Corp, based in Albany, N.Y., Thredgold told the gathering that Utah has quietly climbed into second place (second only to California; tied with North Carolina) in its creation of high-tech jobs.
Utah County is Utah's answer to California's Silicon Valley with such high-profile companies as Novell and WordPerfect, but Thredgold pointed out that there are more than 30 other such firms in Utah County as well as others around the state vying to become household names. A few of them might make it.
Tourism is another bright spot, said Thredgold, as 60 percent of the skiers on Utah slopes are now tourists who spend $145 a day and pay a lot of taxes "so we won't have to."
He noted that Utah might also capitalize on one of its less publicized assets: its golf courses. Saying that a round of golf in "golf crazy" Japan costs $300, a Japanese person could buy a Delta Air Lines package to Utah, play golf every day for a week, and save money over what it would cost to stay home.
Thredgold said he and KeyCorp President and chief executive officer, Victor J. Riley Jr., deliver about 50 such economic forums a year and "selling Utah is the easiest of the eight states in which we (KeyCorp's subsidiaries) do business."
With all that good news for Utahns, Thredgold noted that the bad news is that the state is still a member of the federal union, and the United States economy has little to crow about.
The problem, said Thredgold, can be summed up in one word: overspending. Despite all the talk of cutting the federal deficit, it just isn't being done, he said. When revenues are increased, supposedly to offset the deficit, Congress simply spends more. "Government will spend all it has and then as much more as it can get away with."
And it gets away with a lot. Much of the so-called spending cuts are simply "smoke and mirrors," he said. For example, if a program cost $100 million last year, it will likely be budgeted for $110 million this year. Then Congress cuts $5 million off the increase and tells the taxpayers that the $105 million budget is saving them money.
Thredgold chided Congress and the Administration for the "back-slapping" that has been going on over the $500 billion budget reduction scheduled over the next five years. There's only one problem, he said, "it won't happen." Again, "sleight of hand" will replace actual spending cuts.
"The Administration says there will be no deficit by fiscal 1996; don't hold your breath," he said. The best indicator of where the true sentiment for budget cutting lies, he noted, is in the fact that Congress has raised its own operating budget 16 percent.
KeyCorp President Riley told the gathering that the nation's fiscal fiasco is just part of the problem, citing the breakdown of morality, rising crime, crumbling roads, bridges, waterworks and other infrastructure as examples of the many serious problems the nation faces.
There are no simple answers, he said, but the solutions would come if we could only apply to them the same leadership, sacrifice, cooperation, restraint and determination that carried the nation to victory in operation Desert Storm.
But the attributes to success in the Persian Gulf have so far eluded us, said Riley. "We aren't making any progress.".
The question he hears most often, said Riley, is "How safe is my money?" The fact is, he said, the banking system is in serious disarray.
"We need a complete restructuring of the banking system said Riley, but Congress has failed to act." He said the nation's banks are laboring under regulations put into place in the 1930s.