With new tariffs looming, Utah businesses face uncertainty, higher costs

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With new tariffs looming, Utah businesses face uncertainty, higher costs (Photo: KUTV)

Matt Irvin sells home technology systems to homes and businesses from his South Salt Lake business AudioWorks. Given that most of the products he installs are made in China and subject to recent tariffs, the only thing that seems certain about the future is that it’s going to cost him more.

“It’s hard to estimate jobs, it’s hard to get clients to sign contracts with this uncertainty,” he said.

Already, many of the remote control devices, touch pads, and speakers he sells have been subject to price increases of anywhere from six to 10 percent.

With new tariffs scheduled to hit on Oct. 15 and in December, Irvin wonders: Who’s really being punished by the tariffs imposed on China?

“A lot of people see this as an expense to China, when I’m writing the checks and my customers are writing the checks,” he said.

In a moment of frustration, Irvin posted a message on social media to President Donald Trump, along with a picture of an invoice that includes a tariff fee.

“Am I supposed to be sending this bill to China? Please advise,” read the post.

Natalie Gochnour, an economist who directs the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, says the tariffs have put pressure on Utah’s economy and the U.S. economy.

“The president is operating in very dangerous territory. It’s risky,” she said.

While Utah sells $1.3 billion in goods every year to China, Utah buys a lot more from China — about $2.7 billion. The pending tariffs will likely do more damage to the economy, as they are scheduled to happen during the holiday season — an important time for retailers.

“You are going to see more and more consumer products affected, so everything from computers to iPhones. Consumers will face higher prices,” she said.

Irvin, who purchased AudioWorks more than 10 years ago, said he appreciates that some of his suppliers are including the tariff charge as a line item on invoices. But others are just doing a price increase to account for the tariffs.

He worries that even if tariffs are rolled back, suppliers won’t change their prices.

“In my mind, once a cost goes up, it won’t come down,” he said.