The Salt Lake Tribune described the sixth annual Governor's Utah Economic Summit, held last week at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, as "an upbeat Utah love fest, coming on the heels of a slew of corporate expansions and top-tier national rankings for Utah in terms of business and job growth, and overall economic well-being."
Governor Gary R. Herbert would probably describe it as a "red letter day."
And why not be upbeat? Job growth in Utah is approaching three percent and the state is showing strong signs of recovery from the Great Recession. The Summit was an informative day to be sure, with a sold-out crowd of 1,300 – some of "Utah's best and brightest" – gathered for the day-long economic development conference. The event included a keynote address by Union Pacific CFO Robert M. Knight, breakout sessions with practical advice for employers on how to continue their forward momentum, CiCi Awards, the featured address by Governor Herbert and a reception hosted by Utah's Own and the Utah State Fairpark.
Growing in Utah
Knight told the packed crowd that Union Pacific expects to hire approximately 100 new employees in Utah this year. Further, the three companies recognized with CiCi Awards during the summit -- ITT Exelis, eBay and IM Flash – have been expanding their Utah operations as well. Due to their growth, the three companies received Corporate Investment and Community Impact awards (CiCi) by Trade & Industry Development magazine.
IM Flash, which employs approximately 1,600 Utahns in its Lehi facility, will hire 100 to 200 people over the next year. IM Flash makes flash-memory chips for mobile platforms and cameras. Meanwhile, ITT Exelis, plans to add approximately 100 employees this year to its current base of 400 workers in Salt Lake City and another 100 per year after that. ITT Exelis manufactures advanced carbon-composite structures for military and commercial aircraft and fabricates acoustic sensors for military, medical and other commercial uses.
During the award presentation, Managing Editor Mary Helen Sprecher said Trade & Industry Development received over 700 applicants for the CiCi awards, but gave out only 30 awards in all. To have three winners from Utah, "That is extraordinary," she concluded.
The reason the three high-tech companies are located in Utah is largely due to the business-friendly environment, access to a young, well-educated workforce, the quality of life and the support of government and private organizations like the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
Job Growth Approaching 3 percent
While introducing Governor Herbert as the featured speaker, Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson noted that Utah was fifth best for venture capital and currently leads the nation in export growth. "Even oil well drilling is at a seven-year high," he said.
Governor Herbert attributed the Beehive State's strong economic performance to the private sector, noting that his job is to create the fertile field for business and then get government out of the way. He used a golf analogy to highlight improvements in the game of business and said, "…you couldn't be playing the game of business in a better state. In fact, maybe you heard that Business Facilities magazine named Utah the 2011 State of the Year; that Arthur Laffer named Utah the state with the best economic outlook; or that, for the second year in a row, Forbes named Utah the number one place for business in America."
In terms of its business climate, the governor said Utah's normal is the world's extraordinary. The Beehive State is widely recognized as a great place to do business and Governor Herbert said the accolades and data don't lie.
The Secret of Utah's Success
"Why does business want to be here? Why does business thrive here?" he asked. "I am going to let you in on the secret to Utah's success. The secret to our success is -- there is no secret. In Utah, it's really pretty simple. We follow the basics and we adhere to correct business principles in a free market environment. It starts with how Utah's government runs. "As a state government we can either foster a fertile field where companies are able to grow, or we can salt the earth with harsh regulations and onerous taxes that make success elusive."
Governor Herbert noted that taxes may be necessary, but they should not punish success. Further, business regulations should not be overly restrictive or nonsensical. Last year his cabinet reviewed "every single business regulation on the books in Utah. As a result," he said, "we have now amended or eliminated 368 outdated and unnecessary regulations that were nothing but a drag on the economy."
In that vein, the governor noted his administration is constantly searching for ways to lessen the burden of government and get out of the way of the private sector…"to keep government off our backs and out of our wallets. In Utah, this just seems like common sense. To the outside world, they are best practices to those trying to emulate our success," he said.
Hard-wired for Teamwork
Perhaps it is no secret, but the collaborative environment in Utah has an enormous impact on economic development in the state. Governor Herbert said Utahns are hard-wired for teamwork. "Since our early pioneer days, Utahns have uniquely understood the synergies and value of working together, toward a common goal – and we still practice that," he added.
As an example, the governor described Janicki Industries' recruitment to Utah. The composites precision machining company recently opened a 100,000 square-foot facility in Layton. The recruitment effort began when experts in advanced composites from around the state were asked, "Who else needs to be brought here to complete your supply chain?" Janicki Industries was identified as a missing link.
"So the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah) visited Janicki headquarters in Washington State to discuss a possible expansion here in Utah. The timing was fortuitous," Governor Herbert explained. "Janicki was just starting talks with ATK about partnering on the Joint Strike Fighter project."
Because of the visit, Janicki leaders visited Utah where they found the education community ready to meet company needs, along with friendly and supportive city leaders in Layton. Janicki ultimately decided to open its new facility there.
"Here you had industry leaders, state entities, the education community, local governments and more all coming together to achieve a favorable outcome," the governor said. "This is the epitome of the unprecedented partnerships I often speak about."
100,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days
The Governor's Economic Council is another critical partnership that is helping to further economic development across the state. Governor Herbert said the council coordinates the state's economic activities toward a singular vision -- that "Utah will lead the nation as the best performing economy and be recognized as a premier global business destination."
"I am counting on them to help us reach our goal of creating 1000,000 jobs in 1,000 days," he added. According to data provided by the Governor's office, 8,100 jobs have been created since November 2011. Further, the state gained 4,500 jobs during the period from Feb. 26 to Mar. 26, 2012.
Governor Herbert concluded by saying Utah is moving to the top of its game. "If you have been waiting for the right time to expand, create more jobs, or hire more people, now is the right time. Whether your company is in the middle of the back nine or you are just setting up on the first tee – now is the right time," he said.