BUSINESS + ECONOMY

2023 was full of challenges for small businesses in Utah but resources are available

Dec 20, 2023, 4:14 PM

Image of Diggity Dog Resort at 245 West Paramount Avenue in Salt Lake City, one of the businesses t...

Diggity Dog Resort at 245 West Paramount Avenue in Salt Lake City. (Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — 2023 was a challenging year for businesses in the Beehive State, but owners have a lot of options for support within the state.

The President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, Derek Miller, said interest rates, inflation, wages and worker shortages were all challenging.

“We certainly need to get inflation under control. We just put too many dollars in the system,” he said.

Miller said that although Utah has done well dealing with those higher rates, we should be doing even better. 

On top of that, growth in the state has also brought about challenges. But Miller said the growth isn’t all bad.

“All of our challenges in Utah come by virtue of the fact that we’re growing,” he said. “Challenges with housing costs, challenges with transportation constraints. These challenges are much better than the challenges that come with decline. We would not want to trade our challenges of growth with the challenges that come with decline.”

Worker shortages

Miller said there are tens of thousands of job openings in Utah.

“Even with the high birth rate that we have in Utah, even with the high population growth that we have in Utah, the fact of the matter is we cannot keep up with the number of jobs that we’re creating for the people that we have,” he said.

Additionally, he said there are several things business owners could do to ease that shortage. For one, wages are, unsurprisingly, a big factor in hiring and keeping employees.

“We find businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, that are already recognizing that increasing wages is an important part of keeping the workforce that they have. Every business understands it’s much better, much less expensive to keep an employee rather than losing an employee and having to retrain,” Miller said.

Beyond increasing wages, businesses can ease worker shortages by offering on-the-job training like upskilling or apprenticeships.

Miller also suggested that businesses can find more opportunities for a workforce by opening their doors to people who have a past criminal record.

“People trying to move on with their lives want a second chance. But often that criminal record keeps them from that,” he said.

Where small business owners in Utah can go for help

Amid the challenges, Miller said, “The good news that is we have so many resources available for small business[es] in this state.”

According to Miller, it’s key for business owners to develop resources and find support. He said there are several organizations, like the Salt Lake Chamber, whose sole purpose is to help businesses succeed.

“We have small business resource centers that come out of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Local chambers of commerce have resources for their small businesses. And here at the Salt Lake Chamber, we have a women’s business center to help those women-owned small business owners to develop their plans and to take them to the next level,” Miller said.

According to Miller, the Salt Lake Chamber just launched a diverse-owned business accelerator to help owners with fundamentals like creating business plans or expanding their business.

On top of offering resources, Miller said one of the things the Chamber has been working on is removing overburdensome regulations.

“At the end of the day, every small business … what they think about all day, and frankly often during the night, is ‘What am I gonna do to keep my doors open? How am I going to keep my head above water,'” he said. “And so they need advocates on their behalf that are looking out for these kinds of things.”

Related: Mortgage rates back below 7%, how does it affect Utah buyers?

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2023 was full of challenges for small businesses in Utah but resources are available