Winner: As 2011 comes to an end, Utahns have reason to believe better times lie just ahead. For one thing, the commercial real estate market in Salt Lake City had a good year and looks poised for an even better one in 2012, when the huge City Creek project is scheduled for completion. The real estate firm C.B. Richard Ellis issued a report this week showing office vacancy rates are down as the absorption rate of office space is accelerating. In addition, the city has one of the lowest industrial availability rates in the nation, another good sign that the local economy is gearing up.
Winner: On the heels of the commercial and industrial real estate markets, home sales showed signs of recovering in Utah, as well, in 2011. Prices still are falling — they dropped 8 percent during the year — but sales were up 8 percent. In addition, the inventory of homes for sale is the lowest it has been since 2007. With an increase in demand and a low inventory, prices are likely to rebound and the construction industry should have a good year.
Loser: China is aggressively expanding its space program, according to plans announced this week. That, in itself, is not a loser. But Chinese plans for space-station construction and unmanned trips to the moon make the U.S. retreat from space seem ominously short-sighted. The Chinese say the fact its military runs the space program doesn't mean it has anything but peaceful intentions. Just the same, the United States may want to restart the international talks on space security, which were held regularly with the old Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Winner: Congratulations to the American Fork Marching band, which will march in the Tournament of Roses Parade Monday morning. Earning a spot in what arguably is the most famous parade of all is an honor to the musicians and their instructors.
Loser: Spain is ending the year by announcing its budget deficit is much larger than forecast, and that it is going to raise taxes, freeze wages and impose new budget cuts. This bad news refocuses the spotlight on the European Union's lingering fiscal crisis and raises new questions about its ability to survive the struggling economies of its weakest members. It's also bad news for the United States, whose struggling efforts to return to prosperity could be threatened by troubles in Europe.