SALT LAKE CITY — Both the United States and Utah are on solid economic footing despite some initial concern following the presidential election, and what lies ahead in the New Year could also be promising, analysts say.
Spencer Levy, Americas head of research for real estate firm CBRE, said prospects for economic growth nationally are trending upward now that the "dust has settled" from the presidential race, and he says that should continue in the first few months of 2017.
“I expect there to be modestly more job growth and modestly more (commercial) tenant demand in the next six months because sentiment is modestly better,” Levy said Wednesday, speaking to an audience of commercial real estate professionals at the Grand America Hotel.
“Longer term, after that six-month period, the proof is in the pudding," he said.
That proof will be determined by policy changes proposed by President-elect Donald Trump and whether they have the intended “stimulative effect,” said Levy, a native New Yorker who worked with Trump briefly as a young lawyer.
A potential "wild card," he said, could be possible restrictions on international trade or immigration that could change the trajectory of the overall economy. Also, the nation’s aging demographic, the national debt, political intransigence and automation could all be major issues that present significant concern for the new president that are not within governmental control, Levy said.
“Those are the issues that could push back hard” against otherwise strong economic progress, he said.
Local economist Darin Mellott, southwest region director of research and analysis for CBRE, noted that in the early months of 2107, the new president will likely find some opportunities to negotiate political positions that serve the country’s long-term vested interests.
“For things like tax policy and other types of fiscal policy and budgetary matters, (the majority party) can use a process called 'reconciliation' that requires a simple majority of votes in the Senate to close debate and override a filibuster,” Mellott explained. “They can use these kinds of maneuvers to push through the fiscal policies that the president-elect has advocated.”
Having that power would allow Republican leaders to move ahead with their long-range agenda, he said.
Levy said that while Trump may not be particularly well-versed in traditional political policies and etiquette, he speaks his mind and is able to connect with the electorate in a ways others have not — something that may serve him well in office.
“You may not like him, you may love him, but (either way) you understand him and what his point of view is,” he said. “It’s refreshing from a communications standpoint that you know where he stands, but the other wild card is that we have this international order of how things have been done.”
Levy said the president-elect tends to look at situations “transactionally” rather than with a historic or traditional approach, so he may not follow usual formalities regarding global politics.
From a broad economic perspective, Levy said he believes Trump understands the advantages of having positive relations with countries such as Mexico and China, so he will try to figure out a way to maintain the stability of those relationships.
“He’s going to want to increase the positives and lose some of the negatives,” he said.
Levy added that what Trump says in public will now have more impact than some of the policies that are eventually implemented.
“His voice is going to matter more and influence corporations perhaps even more than his policies, with the possible exception of tax and regulatory policy,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the subject of the local economy, Levy is "bullish" about the state’s near-term future.
“This is a very pro-business environment state,” he said. “And Salt Lake City is one of the best ‘live, work, play’ cities in the world. It’s a wonderful place to live in addition to work."