SALT LAKE CITY ó ìUtah is still growing.î It may be at a bit slower pace, but Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was ever the optimist in an interview last week. ìWe are still creating jobs. The biggest complaint from various companies is that they canít find labor to do the jobs,î he said. Admitting that there will be some ìdiminution in revenueî in terms of state revenue, the governor preferred to dwell on what is still upbeat about the stateís economy. ##M:MORE##
However, of the economic downturn, connected with the massive mortgage crunch, Huntsman said, ìThe Federal Reserve is probably a big part of that. In a free market economy, such things (swings) happen.
ìThereís a little pain at the banks (lending institutions), they are burgeoning to convert improved balance sheets. They are talking of balance sheets that are well out of kilter,î he continued.
ìThis is a wake up call. There will be a correction. Families are realizing the savings rate probably matters,î the governor said. In recent years, the U.S. has had among the worldís lowest rates of personal savings.
ìThis debt is something we all have to take seriously,î Huntsman continued, adding that itís hard to personalize ìuntil it hits our doorstep.î
He has experience both in the business and diplomatic/government sector.
ìCNN Money has cited us as one of the five fastest growing economies in the country,î he said, citing just one of several recent polls showing Utah at or in second or third place in terms of economy and business friendly environment.
In terms of population growth, Tooele County was ranked number one in the country for percentage growth and Washington County number five.
ìWe are in line for an economic upswing, have some financial initiatives,î Huntsman said. ìWe are still creating jobs ñ†not as fast as before, but we led the nation in job creation.
ìItís gone from 100 MPH to 40 MPH,î in terms of the stateís economic engine.
ìWe are the third fastest growing stateî in the nation, he said. That includes the ìhotî energy sector growth in Eastern Utah around Vernal.
ìWe are already hearing from hoteliers that thereís no (room) capacity left,î he said.
Thatís because of the influx of oil and related workers to that region, drawn by oil shale, natural gas and other potential development made more attractive due to the high oil prices.
ìIn travel and tourism, there were 17 million tourists (coming to the state) when I was elected,î nearly four years ago. ìNow weíre at 21 million. We went from $2.5 billion in economic impact to $4.5 billion.
ìThe numbers are not abating,î he said. ìPeople are just staying closer to home. Weíre sitting pretty.
ìOur manufacturing base has done very well,î Huntsman continued. He used the example of Proctor & Gamble coming to Box Elder County, ìthe first grassroots factory in 30 years, and it comes to Utah,î citing the stateís outstanding business climate.
ìWages are being taken up the economic ladder,î he said.
Economic development has been one of the governorís top priorities, and when he was elected, what the state does well was accentuated for further development.
ìCluster economic developmentî was developed, with aerospace technology highlighted in Davis County and Northern Utah.
Winter sports resulted in bringing two major ski firms to the state, aerospace firms, including continued development at Hill Air Force Base.
ìItís on the short list (to host) cyber command,î he said, in addition to a ìlot of collaboration with public and private sectors.î