Fox files ‘Somewhere over North America’

I’m typing this installment of the Fox Files from 30,000 feet en route between SLC and Chicago, where I’ll be attending a seminar hosted by the publishers of “Site Selector” magazine on investment strategies. I’ll be excited to share what I learn from the seminar in a future installment.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about right now, in no particular order:

Consumer Habits: I had the chance to tour the new UPS and Amazon facilities in SLC this week. Very cool. Those facilities are a direct physical representation of the ways our changing consumer patterns affect site selection, development, and employment. Between the two buildings there will be nearly 3 million square feet of space dedicated to moving goods through our market, and over 2,000 employees dedicated to ensuring those goods reach you in a timely manner. While touring the facilities, I couldn’t help but think that they were the new “malls” with respect to consumption. Obviously, there are still many of us who enjoy the experience of being at a mall like City Creek, Station Park, or Fashion Place where we can browse, eat, and be entertained. But specifically with respect to buying essential products, the shift to e-retailing is clear. I left those tours feeling very grateful that Utah is well positioned to take advantage of these trends in the marketplace and seize Utah’s position in the global supply chain. Our proximity to major markets and our road, rail, and air infrastructure make us a given in this space. I also left with an increased respect for our partners in Utah’s construction industry who are meeting and exceeding the expectations of those global brands.

Trade: President Trump announced this week planned tariffs on steel and aluminum. We’ll wait to see what the specifics of those tariffs are later this week. While Utah has a fairly sizable steel and aluminum industry, I share the concerns of many that any tariff be implemented in a way that levels the playing field and that does not unduly increase costs in the U.S. We will begin reaching out to our existing industry to see if the announced tariffs will have an impact on their investment decisions and if so, how the economic development organizations in the state can be helpful. I am mindful, however, that although the solar tariff threat lead to a lot of project activity for us, it ultimately lead to only one active project still looking and will likely lead to little investment in the U.S. We’ve yet to see whether the steel and aluminum tariffs will have the same effect.

Inclusion: The Utah State House passed a bill that will offer incentives to employers who offer paid leave. Measures like this that encourage inclusion in the workplace will be increasingly important as Utah’s demographics shift and we look more towards expanding our economy through focusing on our internal population. I’ll anxiously await the final outcome of this legislation as it continues to work its way through the process.

The Utah Legislative Session: This is the last week of the Legislative Session. While our organization does not regularly get involved in policy discussions, we do monitor legislation as it has an impact on our business. The legislature has some very big and very important items on its “to-do” list for the next 4 days. We wish those leaders the best of luck in partnering with their stakeholders to find the best solutions on the major issues of the day. Our Board of Advisors will look forward to hearing from some of this year’s movers and shakers at their upcoming quarterly board meeting.

That’s all for now. I am excited to share more thoughts on the investment seminar and what I learn about branding and building our business destination next week.