At the Zions Bank Trade and Business Conference held May 29, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah, participants in the crowd of 900 business and community leaders were provided with a wealth of information and strategies for expanding their businesses around the world. The event was attended by local government leaders including Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. Speakers dealt with obstacles and solutions for increasing trade and growing the global economy.
“Despite being landlocked, Utah is the only state in the nation to double its exports in the last five years. In 2012, exports exceeded $19.1 billion. In this state, we are armed with knowledge to expand businesses, especially overseas,” Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson said as he kicked off the conference.
President George W. Bush, who was the honored guest, discussed his experiences with world leaders and the nature of governing and decision-making. He emphasized the importance of expanding the U.S. global market as a means of facilitating and maintaining world peace. “Freedom is universal, not just a Western thought,” he said. “The human condition elsewhere matters for our national safety.”
Three other speakers shared their insights on how to take advantage of the global economy and opportunities for trade in order to succeed in today’s market. Joel Kotkin, an internationally recognized demographer and author of “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” began the conference with a warning: If the birthrate in industrial countries continues to decline, there could be severe economic consequences, among them long-term economic stagnation and the growing burden of supporting the rest of the world’s population. “When children become a secondary thought, we may see the breakdown of businesses and of a society,” he said. Kotkin offered some possible solutions to this problem including increasing affordable housing and living space, encouraging more international migration, and allowing greater decentralization.
Leslie Schweitzer, vice president of international business development at Capitalize, told participants to more closely look at emerging countries for the enormous investment opportunities available there. She specifically cited Afghanistan as “the future of business … though not for the faint of heart.” Despite the ravages of war and a struggling nascent democracy, Afghanistan is progressing at a surprising rate. With the help of the U.S., the country’s education system is improving, with 8 million children— many of them girls — now learning to read and write. Schweitzer, who recently returned from the American University of Afghanistan’s third graduation and first MBA commencement ceremony, said that the university is one of the greatest legacies left by the U.S. as its war effort there winds down. The country’s growing economy is offering many untapped opportunities for adventurous investors and businesses. She encouraged investors from Utah and Idaho to take advantage of those opportunities.
Randal Quarles, managing director at the Carlyle Group Global Alternative Asset Management in Washington, D.C., noted that, despite the still struggling U.S. economy, it is stable and “there are great opportunities created by this environment.” Europe remains one of the most important trade partners for the U.S. Even though its economy continues to face significant hurdles, new markets will be opening up there and should be explored. “Europe presents opportunities. The financial sector will be shedding assets at substantial discounts,” Quarles said. Providers of finance to European companies will enjoy opportunities because competitors there are weakened and are likely to continue to be so in the near and medium term. China also presents investment opportunities because of its declining market. “Our estimates are that nearly $1.4 trillion of China’s investments between 2008 and 2010 were unproductive and will result in bad debts. This is nearly a quarter of their total investments,” Quarles said. He pointed out that international energy production also provides important business opportunities for U.S. companies. Gas production outside of North America is projected to grow at 24 percent between 2011 and 2020, outpacing the U.S. at 14 percent. Quarles’ closing advice was that, even though the U.S. is struggling with energy production, investors shouldn’t let that discourage them from looking at the opportunities for trade outside the U.S.
During the conference, Connor Sport Court was honored as the recipient of the “Global Pacesetter” award — a distinction given annually to a Utah company that has demonstrated international success. Ron Cerny, president and CEO of the company, accepted the award.
Zions Bank has held its Trade and Business Conference for 12 years and is proud to offer this invaluable source of information, insights and resources to the bank’s clients throughout Utah and Idaho. It has become an important means for helping our customers expand their businesses around the world.