Courtesy of Domo

'It'd be really ugly': Utah tech companies brace for coronavirus effect; Domo cancels in-person conference

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Posted - Feb. 28, 2020 at 3:06 p.m.



LEHI — Utah tech company Domo is already starting to feel the effects of the coronavirus.

“We got phone calls yesterday from Japan, and I got 15 employees that aren’t working anymore. They’re sitting at home ‘cause they shut down schools. So think about that here. What does that impact really feel like?” said Domo CEO Josh James as he talked to reporters Friday at the Silicon Slopes headquarters in Lehi.

“It’s happened in one of the top three or four economies in the world already. So yeah, it’s extremely concerning.”

Domo, like many other companies, shut down international travel and has now ended nonessential travel over fear of the coronavirus, which has already infected over 82,000 people worldwide. The company also announced Friday that it’s changing Domopalooza, its annual user conference, to a conference live online.

Domo is following the example of several other companies like Facebook, which announced it would cancel its developer conference in May because of concerns over coronavirus.

Dave Elkington, founder of InsideSales, now known as XANT, said the company’s user conference attendance was sparser than it would have normally been. XANT executives have refuted that claim, however, saying coronavirus did not affect the number of attendees and that over 500 people attended, though the company had a target of about 400. XANT did not confirm whether conference attendance was higher or lower than in years previous when the organization was known as InsideSales.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also discouraged international travel to the faith’s general conference in April and postponed leadership meetings until October.

“I think everyone's gonna cancel every conference. It’s gonna get weird,” said James.

Utah tech giant Qualtrics, however, has not yet canceled its March conference.

“The Qualtrics X4 Summit is scheduled to proceed as planned. According to the CDC and state officials, risk levels for the coronavirus to the American public and the general public in Utah remain low. We are closely monitoring developments and will take immediate action where needed,” Qualtrics’ website reads.

Health officials in Utah have investigated 12 people for potential infection of the virus, but none has tested positive, said Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, during a press conference Thursday.

"This coronavirus issue that we’re dealing with is changing every day," Miner said. "It’s important that we be here to communicate with each other and update what is going on.”

The risk of Utahns being infected with coronavirus is still considered low, but health officials do expect the disease to come to Utah at some point, Miner said. He believes Utah will be able to respond well, if and when cases start coming in.

And though the virus hasn’t made its way to the Beehive State quite yet, companies who do business in Asia are feeling the effects.

“There’s a guy who owns a company here in Utah. He’s shutting down. He has 500 factory plants all in China. They all shut down. So he’s done. He’s actually closing the business this year, so it’s a big deal,” Elkington said.

James believes that as some companies “hunker down,” others will follow suit — especially if the spread of the virus hits Utah and lasts awhile. And that’s when individual employees will start feeling the heat.

“Everyone hunkers down and hopes we have enough cash to make it through. … It’d be really ugly. It’d be really ugly,” James said. “(It’d be a) nasty couple of months while things play themselves out, and hopefully somebody figures out a vaccine.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, who visited the Silicon Slopes area Friday, said he believes President Donald Trump made the right call to “put one person in charge” of handling the health concern after Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to head the operations.

“But frankly, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent the spread of a highly contagious condition. And if someone comes up with a way to do that, we’ll all get behind them; but that’s not there. But what (Trump) is doing is making sure that we get the preventative equipment … to medical professionals,” Romney said, noting that finding a vaccine for the virus could take a year or more.

“In the interim, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen,” he said.

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Liesl Nielsen

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