Leaders from throughout the western United States must find their own solutions to challenges facing business and the family or risk being "ravaged" by federal government policy, a regional economic development official says.
"We've been ravaged by federal government policy, and we need to stand up for the West," said Philip Burgess of the Center for the New West, based in Washington, D.C.Burgess was in Salt Lake City recently drumming up support for the fledgling organization, whose main support has so far come from Colorado-based concerns. Burgess said he works for the center's principal contributor and regional telecommunications giant, US West, based in Denver and serving Utah through US WEST Communications, formerly Mountain Bell.
He said the center, an independent non-profit corporation, will officially start operating in February, working with economic development groups throughout the West to promote job growth.
In a speech before the Wasatch Front Economic Forum, Burgess said America and the West is not on a decline, but going through changes that must be examined to prepare for the future.
"The West is going through a massive economic restructuring. This is a structural change in demand, not cyclical."
Burgess said the demand for the West's mainstay products, such as oil and minerals, is changing as new sources are found and technology finds a better substitute.
In addition to finding new products to export and new markets for exports, the demographics of the West present many challenges and opportunities for local government and businesses, Burgess said.
"The baby boom bulge is moving through the demographic snake" as it ages and forces per capita income up, he said. Meanwhile, the "baby dearth" during the late 1960s and 1970s, coupled with the recent mini-boom in births, will cause erratic demands on public facilities.
Only 3 percent of the baby boom generation are wealthy "yuppies," Burgess said, while the rest are middle class "puppies," or panicky urban professionals always worried about making the house payment and paying the bills.
To meet those financial obligations, a majority of families have both parents holding down full-time jobs, marking an end to the "Ozzie and Harriet family of the 1960s," Burgess said.
Caring for children while both parents are at work "is the biggest issue facing America today and the federal government shouldn't get involved by making policies and laws to deal with it."
Burgess explained that the federal government will "outlaw" churches, neighbors and health spas as the main sources of child care.
"These are where 85 percent of today's families spend most of their time because that's where they have child care."
The solutions to child care must come from local government and business, Burgess said. "These are not just do-good issues, but issues that need local leadership from private business.
"Business can work out better solutions through cooperation and using technological advances," he said, noting technology has already enabled an increasing number of companies to let their employees work at home.
Addressing economic development, Burgess said local governments must realize that fostering innovation and growth among existing small businesses is the key to job growth, not chasing out-of-state smokestacks.
"The policies of economic development shouldn't value the people who aren't here over those who are," Burgess said, warning against communities paying too high a price by holding out economic incentives to attract new industry.
However, he also warned against providing subsidies for the large, home-based "old-economy businesses" that "always have their hands in the back pockets of taxpayers."
Burgess said small business is the backbone of an economy and through supporting innovation and research will the needs of small business be met.