Should you meet Utah Governor Gary Herbert in his office in the State Capi...Read More
“Even though I’m not a poker player, I know that if you’re dealt four aces, you’ve got to play them,” the Governor says. “Utah’s been given four aces in terms of our natural resources and potential for energy development.”
In rural Utah, where many of those natural resources are found, energy development creates hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. For every natural gas well drilled, a local economy can be bolstered by as much as $700,000–800,000. A single oil well can easily pump $1 million into a local economy. Developing energy supplies means creating jobs—not only energy jobs, but jobs in housing, hospitality, supply, and support industries.
“Utah is poised to be a leader in the energy economy of the future,” Herbert says. “We have access to traditional, alternative and renewable resources. In order to ensure our continued energy independence we have to encourage the responsible development of those resources. One way we’re doing that is through the use of innovative and forward-thinking incentives.”
Recognizing that renewable energy is becoming a major player in the energy field, the Utah Legislature passed the Renewable Energy Development Incentive, or REDI, two years ago. It provides a 100 percent refundable tax credit on a project’s new state revenue for the life of the project, or up to 20 years.
It’s paying dividends. The First Wind project in Milford, now in its second phase of expansion, is one of the nation’s largest private wind power generation facilities. It generates enough power to light 45,000 homes in southern California, where the power is transmitted.
“Low-cost and reliable energy supplies are one of our state’s competitive advantages,” explains Herbert. “Indeed, the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour in Utah is among the lowest of any state and has held steady, in relative terms, for the past 20 years. Our energy advantages are one of the reasons companies relocate to our state, which brings jobs and tax revenue.”
In order to ensure the state retains its energy independence, the Governor has created a 10-year energy plan. “My energy plan was developed by a task force staffed by some of Utah’s most talented individuals from industry, academia and the environmental community,” Herbert says. “It will serve as a guide as we continue to develop our resources. And we’ll do it in a responsible way, which won’t threaten our environment or the natural beauty for which our state is also known throughout the world.”
The Governor’s third cornerstone is, as he likes to say, “Jobs, jobs and more jobs.”
“We know it is the private sector, not government, that creates jobs,” he says. “Those jobs are being created through the expansion of homegrown Utah companies, as well as new companies relocating to or expanding in our state.”
To accelerate this job creation, Governor Herbert understands the state must increase access to capital. The Utah Fund of Funds, created three years ago, connects Utah companies and entrepreneurs with venture capital funding. Herbert is also focused on continuing to expand Utah’s global exports. Utah’s export growth is the strongest in the nation, and is geared to double in the next five years.
“The competitive advantages we’re fostering here in Utah are now being noticed by people outside our state and national borders,” he says. “Businesses are looking for stability, predictability, a friendly environment, and, of course, an educated, motivated workforce. We have it all here.”
Nurturing a business-friendly environment means keeping taxes low and making regulation fair.
“I understand the purpose of government regulation is to maintain a level playing field,” he says. “As a small business owner, I have also experienced the cost and frustration of over-reaching and irrational regulation.”
In light of that, the Governor has instructed his Cabinet officers to conduct a review of every regulation on the books and recommend which should be kept, changed, or scrapped. “We can kill business growth just as quickly by over-regulation as we can by over-taxation,” says Herbert.
Spirit of Self-Determination
When the pioneers first arrived in Utah in 1847, they came with a spirit of self-determination. They worked to make the desert they called home “blossom as a rose.” One look around the state will provide ample evidence that they succeeded.