I attended a meeting of the Catholic Business Network this week where Utah State Treasurer, Richard Ellis gave a talk. His remarks about the economy of Utah were very insightful, and reaffirmed how well the state government has been managed.
Right now the federal stimulus money is ending, and states are panicked about the loss of those “bail out dollars.” Utah, however, has already budgeted to proceed without the need of any further federal contribution. If the money ends, Utah will be unaffected.
There are over $8 billion in new construction projects currently underway in Utah. These are just the top 20 projects. Hundreds of other projects are not included in that number.
Utah’s housing bubble lagged behind the national average, did not reach the same levels, and therefore did not result in the same kinds of crippling losses. Although Utah has been affected, and many people are in a great deal of financial stress, it is comparatively less significant than the national economic turmoil.
The growth of Utah’s population has averaged over 9% since the last census, one of the highest in the nation. Sooner or later that growth will require new housing to be built. Housing must recover for the overall economy to return to steady growth. New housing is what drives all durable good sales.
It was an interesting meeting. I asked a question about the likelihood of a double-dip recession. Mr. Ellis was reluctant to predict it is coming. However, if it comes, Utah will be better equipped to cope than most the rest of the country. Though national economic downturns do affect Utah, they are ameliorated by state government’s careful management, balanced budget, careful pension management, and rainy-day funding. I think State Treasurer Richard Ellis is a credit to Utah.