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“I believe we need to focus in areas of core strength, without ignoring other areas,” Bridgewater says. “We want to have a smattering of funds that are focused and complementary to Utah’s core strengths.”
In preparing for the next round of funding, Bridgewater’s team is paying special attention to investment opportunities with obvious benefits to industries identified by the state as having extraordinary potential, primarily the medical devices and diagnostics area and the information technology and software development fields. As a second tier, Bridgewater gives aerospace and energy development as examples of industries of interest.
Bridgewater is quick to note that there’s no premium given to funds that invest in these areas, but the goal is to align the Fund’s investments in a way that reinforces the state’s efforts in industry cluster acceleration and development. When Round 2 is complete, Bridgewater wants to be able to step back and see a portfolio that looks like what Utah is aspiring to be, in terms of economic mix.
“We want to make sure that, in the aggregate, the Fund reflects the industry strengths the state is working to build up and expand through a number of programs and activities,” Bridgewater says.
While he considers the first round a success, Bridgewater believes the next portfolio has even greater potential for a number of reasons. First, the Fund’s operations are being reigned in and focused thanks to the historically cheap cost of capital and a more focused picture of the state’s economic priorities. Second, whereas the first fund was committed when the economy was transitioning from boom to bust, the macroeconomic landscape seems to be shifting in the other direction this time.
While the cloud of economic difficulty still lingers, the Fund’s sophomore offering will likely benefit from Utah’s relatively healthy economic environment. The state’s robust entrepreneurial culture leads to the kind of industry diversification and private-public collaboration that bodes well for investors, and the state has willing supporters of the state emphasis on economic development in the public, private and educational sectors, Bridgewater says.
“The future is very bright, but capital markets have been down. We hope to be a catalyst,” he says.