utahs tech said work utah pandemic economic

techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

Taking the pulse of Utah’s tech industryUtah’s highly diversified economy is helping it weather the worst impacts ofthe COVID-19 pandemic better than most states, and as the first doses of thevaccine are disbursed, the state’s robust technology and innovation industriesare likely to help drive an already nation-leading recovery.And that resilience, coupled with Utah’s easy-access outdoor recreation assetsand relatively affordable cost of living, could vault the sector to newheights.Just last year, the true depth and breadth of Utah’s booming high-techindustry was captured in a landmark report that detailed how the sectoraccounts for 1 in 7 Utah jobs and $30 billion in annual gross domestic product— almost one-fifth of the state’s total economic output. It’s also been ahigh-output driver of new employment opportunities, growing at twice the rateof other Utah industries and paying compensation that, on average, exceeds theaverage Utah wage by some 80%.The analysis from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institutefound that, “In terms of total employment and wages in the private sector, nostate with an economy of Utah’s size had a larger tech industry.”But Utah’s tech business ecosystem has not been immune to the negativeeconomic impacts of the pandemic and it, like most other industries, sawwidespread employment and revenue declines early on in the crisis.Gardner research economist Joshua Spolsdoff said while Utah high tech took ahit, it is proving to be both resilient and fast-recovering.“Technology businesses overall have fared well, but they’ve definitelyexperienced impacts from COVID-19,” Spolsdoff said. “The sector saw acontraction at the very beginning but not as large as some other industries.”“Tech took a smaller hit and is well positioned for a faster comeback.”Alex Cochran### Winners and losersLevi Pace, Gardner senior economic researcher and primary author of the 2019Utah Tech Economy report, noted that some tech companies that may have been inless-than-optimum financial straits pre-pandemic have seen business reversalsfueled by the unprecedented conditions.“These circumstances have been transformative for some … tech companies thatmay have been in a much worse spot before the pandemic, but have been able tocompletely flip that,” Pace said.Utah-based online home furnishings retailer Overstock.com has borne out thatperformance about-face as home-isolated customers with money spent heavily onfeathering nests that were seeing a lot more use and scrutiny.In early March, just before widespread shutdowns and shelter-in-place orderswould roll across the country, Overstock stock prices were hovering at justunder $6 per share. Now, that stock is trading around $56 per share and thecompany saw a peak share price north of $120 per share over the summer.During that run of record-high stock pricing for the company, Overstock CEOJonathan Johnson told the Deseret News that online shoppers, pre-pandemic, hadbeen slowly increasing their interest in making purchases of furniture andother home goods, lagging behind other, easier-to-ship items. But restrictionswrought by COVID-19 changed all that.“Over the last decade the home furnishing market has been migrating to onlinesales at a rate of about 1% to 2% a year,” Johnson said. “At the end of 2019,about 23% of those purchases were online.“The pandemic has accelerated that and what have been three to five years ofgrowth has happened in months. We’re now looking at about 36% of purchaseshappening online.”The Pluralsight building in Draper is pictured on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. SteveGriffin, Deseret News### Trend acceleratorMark Vitner, senior economist for financial giant Wells Fargo, said thepandemic has functioned as an economic “trend accelerator” in many cases, withstates that were struggling pre-pandemic seeing those challenges amplifiedamid the crisis and other economically high-performing states like Utah, setto gain even more traction.“That’s why I think Utah is bouncing back as quickly as it is,” Vitner said.“When you have a large exogenous shock like COVID-19, the tendency is toaccelerate trends that were in place before the recession impacts.“States that were doing well and attracting young, skilled workers will doeven better at that and states that were losing will tend to lose even more.”Vitner said U.S. coastal metros are seeing a talent exodus that could continueeven after vaccination efforts help bring the country back to some levels ofnormalcy.“One of the things that people have come to appreciate in the pandemic is thatit’s nice to have a lot of personal space,” Vitner said. “People are leavingparts of the country where that’s not easily achievable and seeking out placeswhere housing is more affordable … with a higher quality of life and outdoorrecreation access.“And that’s right in Utah’s wheelhouse.”Vitner said that dynamic will continue to be extremely beneficial to Utah’stech sector, an industry category in which competition to attract and hiretalent is particularly challenging.A similar assessment was presented at an economic discussion hosted by theUniversity of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute last month.Two national experts on urban development, Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow inurban futures at Chapman University, and Wendell Cox, senior fellow at theUrban Reform Institute said Utah also noted Utah’s attractive combination ofattributes.They presented data showing residents, on a net basis, have been moving out ofU.S. metro areas (designated metropolitan statistical areas by the U.S.Census) with populations of 1 million or more and finding new homes in smallercities going back to 2012. And in the past several months, restrictions inplace across the country aiming to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 havefunctioned as a booster of that migration volume.On the flip side of Utah’s geography and affordability as a talent attractor,remote work is expanding the tech sector’s access to talent thanks to itsinherent agnosticism when it comes to physical borders.The Pluralsight building in Draper is pictured on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. SteveGriffin, Deseret News### Working remotelyAnita Grantham, chief people officer for Utah online tech education giantPluralsight, said the company has expanded its long-running remote workprograms during the COVID-19 pandemic and has, as a result, found new levelsof success in snagging top talent.“From a sole recruiting standpoint, the remote work option has been amazing,”Grantham said. “The access we have to talent now is unreal.“In Europe, it took nine months to hire a German-speaking business developmentrepresentative. Now, we’ve hired two in Germany in one month because we don’thave to have them come to our Dublin office.”Like many companies that have conducted internal surveys to gather employeesentiment on remote work assignments forced by pandemic restrictions,Pluralsight has found a mix of opinions. Grantham said about 2⁄3 of employeessaid they’d prefer a hybrid post-pandemic work schedule, with the flexibilityto work a mix of in-office and at-home hours.Hearing that employees are not yet ready to entirely abandoned the office ismusic to the ears of Pluralsight leaders, particularly as the company’senormous new world headquarters sits quietly empty after construction wascompleted mid-pandemic.The 700-foot-long, 350,000 square-foot behemoth, situated on a 30-acre campusjust east of I-15 in Draper, features massive floor plates that make for greatexpanses of open work space. Grantham said while some minor space planningadjustments were made in light of the public health crisis, the base designwas one that naturally lent itself to the new world of social distancingconcerns.“We got lucky there as we had already planned for a well-spaced workenvironment,” Grantham said. “Desks were already spaced 6 feet apart or moreand our conference space and refresh stations are distributed strategically.We did upgrade our ventilation systems and will have more stringent cleaningregimens when people return to the office.”When that large-scale return to in-person work settings begins is an open-ended question as most businesses wait to see how fast COVID-19 vaccinationprograms, under the management of individual states, plays out.While tech companies are likely to continue to outpace other industries on thepath to full recovery, Vitner said he expects to see significant andwidespread economic rebounding in 2021, though not before the countrynavigates another few months of tough challenges as COVID-19 case volumescontinue to grow.“I think we’ll see further economic downturn in December and January but endthe first quarter better than we started,” Vitner said. “And the second halfof the year will be much stronger.“The pessimist view is some people won’t get a vaccine, and it will take ayear. That doesn’t seem like the right question, which is how long will ittake to get enough people vaccinated to reduce the overall threat to publichealth and I think we’ll be to that point by April or May.”Office buildings in Lehi are pictured on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Steve Griffin,Deseret NewsTaking the pulse of Utah’s tech industry© Steve Griffin, Deseret News Office buildings in Lehi are pictured onTuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. The solar panels in the foreground are at CampWilliams.Utah’s highly diversified economy is helping it weather the worst impacts ofthe COVID-19 pandemic better than most states, and as the first doses of thevaccine are disbursed, the state’s robust technology and innovation industriesare likely to help drive an already nation-leading recovery.And that resilience, coupled with Utah’s easy-access outdoor recreation assetsand relatively affordable cost of living, could vault the sector to newheights.Just last year, the true depth and breadth of Utah’s booming high-techindustry was captured in a landmark report that detailed how the sectoraccounts for 1 in 7 Utah jobs and $30 billion in annual gross domestic product— almost one-fifth of the state’s total economic output. It’s also been ahigh-output driver of new employment opportunities, growing at twice the rateof other Utah industries and paying compensation that, on average, exceeds theaverage Utah wage by some 80%.The analysis from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institutefound that, “In terms of total employment and wages in the private sector, nostate with an economy of Utah’s size had a larger tech industry.”But Utah’s tech business ecosystem has not been immune to the negativeeconomic impacts of the pandemic and it, like most other industries, sawwidespread employment and revenue declines early on in the crisis.Gardner research economist Joshua Spolsdoff said while Utah high tech took ahit, it is proving to be both resilient and fast-recovering.“Technology businesses overall have fared well, but they’ve definitelyexperienced impacts from COVID-19,” Spolsdoff said. “The sector saw acontraction at the very beginning but not as large as some other industries.”© Steve Griffin, Deseret News The Pluralsight building in Draper is picturedon Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.“Tech took a smaller hit and is well positioned for a faster comeback.”#### Winners and losersLevi Pace, Gardner senior economic researcher and primary author of the 2019Utah Tech Economy report, noted that some tech companies that may have been inless-than-optimum financial straits pre-pandemic have seen business reversalsfueled by the unprecedented conditions.“These circumstances have been transformative for some … tech companies thatmay have been in a much worse spot before the pandemic, but have been able tocompletely flip that,” Pace said.Utah-based online home furnishings retailer Overstock.com has borne out thatperformance about-face as home-isolated customers with money spent heavily onfeathering nests that were seeing a lot more use and scrutiny.In early March, just before widespread shutdowns and shelter-in-place orderswould roll across the country, Overstock stock prices were hovering at justunder $6 per share. Now, that stock is trading around $56 per share and thecompany saw a peak share price north of $120 per share over the summer.During that run of record-high stock pricing for the company, Overstock CEOJonathan Johnson told the Deseret News that online shoppers, pre-pandemic, hadbeen slowly increasing their interest in making purchases of furniture andother home goods, lagging behind other, easier-to-ship items. But restrictionswrought by COVID-19 changed all that.“Over the last decade the home furnishing market has been migrating to onlinesales at a rate of about 1% to 2% a year,” Johnson said. “At the end of 2019,about 23% of those purchases were online.“The pandemic has accelerated that and what have been three to five years ofgrowth has happened in months. We’re now looking at about 36% of purchaseshappening online.”#### Trend acceleratorMark Vitner, senior economist for financial giant Wells Fargo, said thepandemic has functioned as an economic “trend accelerator” in many cases, withstates that were struggling pre-pandemic seeing those challenges amplifiedamid the crisis and other economically high-performing states like Utah, setto gain even more traction.“That’s why I think Utah is bouncing back as quickly as it is,” Vitner said.“When you have a large exogenous shock like COVID-19, the tendency is toaccelerate trends that were in place before the recession impacts.“States that were doing well and attracting young, skilled workers will doeven better at that and states that were losing will tend to lose even more.”Vitner said U.S. coastal metros are seeing a talent exodus that could continueeven after vaccination efforts help bring the country back to some levels ofnormalcy.“One of the things that people have come to appreciate in the pandemic is thatit’s nice to have a lot of personal space,” Vitner said. “People are leavingparts of the country where that’s not easily achievable and seeking out placeswhere housing is more affordable … with a higher quality of life and outdoorrecreation access.“And that’s right in Utah’s wheelhouse.”Vitner said that dynamic will continue to be extremely beneficial to Utah’stech sector, an industry category in which competition to attract and hiretalent is particularly challenging.A similar assessment was presented at an economic discussion hosted by theUniversity of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute last month.Two national experts on urban development, Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow inurban futures at Chapman University, and Wendell Cox, senior fellow at theUrban Reform Institute said Utah also noted Utah’s attractive combination ofattributes.They presented data showing residents, on a net basis, have been moving out ofU.S. metro areas (designated metropolitan statistical areas by the U.S.Census) with populations of 1 million or more and finding new homes in smallercities going back to 2012. And in the past several months, restrictions inplace across the country aiming to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 havefunctioned as a booster of that migration volume.On the flip side of Utah’s geography and affordability as a talent attractor,remote work is expanding the tech sector’s access to talent thanks to itsinherent agnosticism when it comes to physical borders.© Steve Griffin, Deseret News The Pluralsight building in Draper is picturedon Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.#### Working remotelyAnita Grantham, chief people officer for Utah online tech education giantPluralsight, said the company has expanded its long-running remote workprograms during the COVID-19 pandemic and has, as a result, found new levelsof success in snagging top talent.“From a sole recruiting standpoint, the remote work option has been amazing,”Grantham said. “The access we have to talent now is unreal.“In Europe, it took nine months to hire a German-speaking business developmentrepresentative. Now, we’ve hired two in Germany in one month because we don’thave to have them come to our Dublin office.”Like many companies that have conducted internal surveys to gather employeesentiment on remote work assignments forced by pandemic restrictions,Pluralsight has found a mix of opinions. Grantham said about 2⁄3 of employeessaid they’d prefer a hybrid post-pandemic work schedule, with the flexibilityto work a mix of in-office and at-home hours.Hearing that employees are not yet ready to entirely abandoned the office ismusic to the ears of Pluralsight leaders, particularly as the company’senormous new world headquarters sits quietly empty after construction wascompleted mid-pandemic.The 700-foot-long, 350,000 square-foot behemoth, situated on a 30-acre campusjust east of I-15 in Draper, features massive floor plates that make for greatexpanses of open work space. Grantham said while some minor space planningadjustments were made in light of the public health crisis, the base designwas one that naturally lent itself to the new world of social distancingconcerns.“We got lucky there as we had already planned for a well-spaced workenvironment,” Grantham said. “Desks were already spaced 6 feet apart or moreand our conference space and refresh stations are distributed strategically.We did upgrade our ventilation systems and will have more stringent cleaningregimens when people return to the office.”When that large-scale return to in-person work settings begins is an open-ended question as most businesses wait to see how fast COVID-19 vaccinationprograms, under the management of individual states, plays out.While tech companies are likely to continue to outpace other industries on thepath to full recovery, Vitner said he expects to see significant andwidespread economic rebounding in 2021, though not before the countrynavigates another few months of tough challenges as COVID-19 case volumescontinue to grow.“I think we’ll see further economic downturn in December and January but endthe first quarter better than we started,” Vitner said. “And the second halfof the year will be much stronger.“The pessimist view is some people won’t get a vaccine, and it will take ayear. That doesn’t seem like the right question, which is how long will ittake to get enough people vaccinated to reduce the overall threat to publichealth and I think we’ll be to that point by April or May.”© Steve Griffin, Deseret News Office buildings in Lehi are pictured onTuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.

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