Despite top performance numbers, USTAR’s fate hangs in the balance

SALT LAKE CITY — It isn’t the first time Utah’s research-focused economic development program has been faced with the question of whether it will live to fight another day.

The Utah Science, Technology and Research initiative, USTAR for short, has been subject to question and criticism essentially from its inception in 2005 by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who predicted the program would make Utah a “haven” for forward-thinking researchers and create a system of returns that would expand with each year.

On Tuesday, a Utah legislative committee is scheduled to hear a proposal that may decide the initiative’s long-term fate. Possible outcomes include allowing the agency to continue to exist as a stand-alone effort focused on supporting entrepreneurial efforts and associated economic development, with a science innovation focus; downsizing the agency and shunting remaining programs under the umbrella of another state-run economic development agency; or eliminating USTAR entirely, though that appears to be an unlikely outcome.

Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Business, Economic Development and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee, said his committee has been exploring questions surrounding the initiative’s efficacy, and potential future, since the beginning of the summer.

“Really, what’s at question here is are we making the highest and best use of these public dollars,” Hemmert said. “Is the way we’ve been spending the $20 million or so that’s been budgeted the best way to support applied scientific research?”

How and where the initiative spends money has been under a microscope for some time now, particularly after the scathing results of a 2013 audit that uncovered issues with reporting practices, including inflated performance numbers, and led to a wholesale recalibration of the agency overseen by former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell.

That effort was widely seen as a positive reset, but the agency has been under steady fire throughout interim meetings over the …read more

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Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist Paul Allen dies at 65

SEATTLE — Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist who invested in conservation, space travel, arts and culture and professional sports, died Monday. He was 65.

He died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his company Vulcan Inc. announced.

Gates said he was heartbroken about the loss of one of his “oldest and dearest friends.”

“Personal computing would not have existed without him,” Gates said in a statement.

“But Paul wasn’t content with starting one company. He channeled his intellect and compassion into a second act focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world. He was fond of saying, ‘If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it,'” Gates wrote.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called Allen’s contributions to the company, community and industry “indispensable.”

“As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world,” Nadella wrote on Twitter.

Allen, an avid sports fan, owned the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.

Gates so strongly believed it that he left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to his and Allen’s startup, originally called Micro-Soft. Allen spent two years at Washington State University before dropping out as well.

They founded the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.

After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives …read more

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Girdles and socket wrenches: Sears was the Amazon of its day

Before there was Amazon — or, for that matter, Home Depot or Walmart or Kmart — there was Sears.

From its beginnings as a mail-order watch business in Minneapolis 132 years ago, the company grew to become America’s everything-under-one-roof store and the biggest retailer in the world.

For generations of Americans, the brick-like Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog was a fixture in just about every house — a miscellany of toys and clothes and furnishings and hardware that induced longing for this or that dream purchase. The Sears brand loomed as large over the corporate landscape as its 108-story basalt-like headquarters did over the Chicago skyline.

“It was the Amazon of its day,” said Mark Cohen, a professor of retailing at Columbia University and a former Sears executive.

But how the mighty have fallen: Plagued by falling sales and heavy debt, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Monday and announced plans to close 142 of its roughly 700 remaining stores and eliminate thousands of jobs in a bid to stay afloat, if only for a while.

Analysts have their doubts it will survive.

“In our view, too much rot has set in at Sears to make it (a) viable business,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said in a note to investors.

Its bankruptcy was years in the making. Sears diversified too much. It kept cutting costs and let its stores become fusty in the face of increasing competition from the likes of Walmart and Target. And though it expanded onto the Internet, it was no match for Amazon.

“In point of fact,” Cohen said, “they’ve been dead for a very long time.”

In its bankruptcy filing, Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart stores, listed assets of $1 billion to $10 billion and liabilities of $10 billion to $50 billion. It said it has lined …read more

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Photos: Hello, trolley … it’s so nice to have you back where you belong

After an eight-year absence, Trolley Square’s iconic streetcar is moved into place on the shopping center’s north plaza in Salt Lake City on Monday. Owners of Trolley Square celebrated the 110th anniversary of the first electric streetcar leaving Trolley Square for public transportation service on Oct. 15, 1908, by reintroducing the trolley after it ras removed in March 2010. Over the years, the trolley served as the Trolley Inn Diner, a bank, a video store, a sandwich shop and most recently the Trolley Wing Co. restaurant and bar. Trolley Square general counsel Taymour Semnani said the car could be home to a similar idea or a new retail concept in the not-so-distant future.

See the world through the eyes of award-winning photojournalists. Click through the gallery above to view the unique images our visual storytellers captured today. Follow the official Deseret News Instagram account for more photographs and videos from the staff.

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