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Predictions for 2017: There’s plenty to keep an eye on in a year that promises change

I love the start of a new year and am typically filled with optimism as I contemplate local and world events. This year the realist in me takes center stage as I look forward with more trepidation and uncertainty, particularly concerning global affairs. While my crystal ball is foggy and blurred, here are a handful of predictions for the new year.

World events

The geopolitics of 2017 will be the biggest story of the year. U.S.-Russia relations will dominate the headlines as our Russian-friendly president and his Secretary of State manage an already edgy relationship with Moscow. Syria and Ukraine will get a lot of attention, but the real fireball will be Russian meddling in U.S. affairs. I predict more and more evidence will emerge about Russian-led cyberattacks. The Trump administration will need to recalibrate their views.

North Korea will continue to be home to the most dangerous man in the world: Kim Jong-un. The supreme leader of Korea declared in a New Year’s Day speech that his military will soon be testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. Perhaps the most dangerous combination of 2017 will be the instability and power of North Korea’s leader mixed with the Twitter thumbs of Donald Trump.

Technology

Technology will bring good and bad in 2017. Watch for cybercrime to get a lot more attention, not just in world affairs, but in your own sense of privacy and security. If your personal email and social media feeds haven’t already been hacked, it’s just a matter of time. Everyone will need to be vigilant in password management, security updates and other common sense security protocols.

The growing presence of “fake news” will catch the attention of credible social media sites. Watch for Facebook to lead the way with innovative approaches to warn users. The attribute of “trust” will get more and more attention as major consumer brands realize how important trust is to their bottom line.

Sensors and robots will continue to multiply. Self-driving cars will take another leap forward, and business plans will begin contemplating the disruption. I’m hopeful that driver-assist options like automatic braking to avoid collisions and automatic steering to avoid lane drifting will reduce traffic fatalities.

Sports

The Jazz will make the playoffs and even compete to make the second round. Gordon Hayward will get the nod as an NBA All-Star, a well-deserved honor for this talented athlete. The fan favorite will continue to be Rudy Gobert, who has helped us earn the title “Swat Lake City.” Fans will continue to be grateful for the Miller family and find favor in coach Quin Snyder.

Real Salt Lake must recover from the poorly handled departure of team star and fan favorite Javier Morales. Coach Jeff Cassar leaves fans uninspired and if RSL isn’t on a winning streak by May he will be gone. Waiting in the wings are some intriguing options, like U.S. soccer great Landon Donovan or coach of the RSL farm team, Mike Petke.

Politics

Politics will be more serious than fun in 2017. The stakes are high as the party in control contemplates policies to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) and build a “great, great wall on our southern border.”

The Republicans will need to be careful not to overreach like the Democrats did in passing healthcare reform. There’s a “Pottery Barn” rule in politics: if you break it, you own it. The prospects of “owning” the U.S. healthcare system is fraught with challenges. This year is a time for the productive middle in American politics to speak up and find compromise on the most important issues of our time. We need both Republicans and Democrats to own healthcare.

Local politics will continue to inspire with solid leaders like Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, and my own mayor, Murray City Mayor Ted Eyre, to name just a few. I’m grateful every day for the caliber of people who serve in public office in this state. I look for the Utah economy to continue to be on the leader board.

Economy

I predict the Fed will make two interest rate hikes in 2017 as the economy reaches full employment and inflation begins to rise. Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s appointment doesn’t end until 2018, but I predict Trump will lay the groundwork to select a new Fed chair next year.

The DOW will surpass 22,000 points in response to the Republican-led Congress and administration’s policies towards taxes and regulation. Corporate income taxes will be reduced and regulatory reform will be the most positive policy contribution of the next two years.

I may be wrong with many of these predictions, but of one thing I am sure: 2017 will be what we make of it. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Here’s to a safe a prosperous New Year for all!

Natalie GochnourNatalie Gochnour is an associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber.