Should you meet Utah Governor Gary Herbert in his office in the State Capi...Read More
“Self-determination is part of our heritage,” Herbert says. “Our pioneer forefathers did what people thought impossible at the time, through hard work, innovation and collaboration. They came into this high desert with almost nothing, and built irrigation systems, planted farms, and laid out towns. They built the foundation for the thriving economy and society we enjoy in Utah today.”
“From the very beginning, we have always found Utah solutions to Utah problems, and we have the right and obligation to continue to do so today,” says the Governor. “Part of the reason Utah is not mired in the cycles of deficits and debt strangling other states is that we’ve been willing to tackle difficult issues before they became crises. We’ve tackled health system reform, Medicaid reform, pension reform, immigration reform and other issues which other states are kicking down the road.”
Herbert recounts that when he meets with other Governors, they express their admiration—and sometimes envy—that Utah is so fiscally fit, and has dealt or is dealing with so many complex problems which are bringing other states to a standstill.
“States are indeed laboratories of democracy and uniquely equipped to find solutions to their own problems,” says Herbert. “In many cases, a solution developed and honed in one state can then serve as a prototype for other states, or for the entire country. We routinely get requests from other states asking us to share our experience in pursuing reforms.”
Part of the problem, in the Governor’s view, is when the federal government imposes solutions from the top-down, rather than letting them percolate up from the states. “As I’ve said, we’ve been solving our own problems here for a very long time. We’re good at it. Our spirit of self-determination has served us well, and we should be left to exercise it freely.”
In that same vein, Herbert knows businesses can determine their own destinies if they are supported, but not restricted, by too much government intervention. To accomplish that, he has reached out to create broad-reaching partnerships between government, industry, and educational institutions.
Governor Herbert believes in teamwork, in what he calls “unprecedented partnerships” between the private and public sectors. He believes in honoring the autonomy of all partners, as well, so that when decisions are made, they are strongly supported by all.
“With the challenges we face in the country—and in the world, really—if we don’t work together, we’re going to have a tougher row to hoe,” he says. “There are opportunities for government to be a facilitator for economic growth, but there is a great danger in government choking entrepreneurship and impeding free markets. The state’s obligation in its partnership with private sector players, is to keep the playing field level, but then to stay off their backs and out of their wallets. Give them the opportunity to be the innovators and the creators of new goods and services.”
Balance, he says, is the key to success. “It’s hard for the government to pursue a balanced agenda if it’s only hearing voices from one side of the aisle,” says the Governor. Bipartisanship is, therefore, a hallmark of the Herbert administration.
“I don’t believe you can have a good working partnership if you don’t understand each other’s point of view,” he says. “We jump to conclusions and assume the worst in those who have a different opinion than ours. That lack of understanding comes from a lack of communication. I like to bring together different people from different points of view and say, ‘Let’s talk about the issue, learn from each other, find the common ground.’”
As evidence of that, Herbert invited former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, a Democrat and an environmentalist, to chair the Balanced Resource Council and to be one of his senior advisors. The council worked with state and local officials on a plan for rural Utah, which is widely supported by the business, government and environmental communities, and which will eventually lead to the development 600 natural gas wells—enough production of natural gas to fuel Utah for five years.
“We did it by bringing the environmental community to the table with developers and local officials,” Herbert says. “We protected some of the environmental concerns they had and created a win-win scenario.” He feels that effort set an example of the bipartisan cooperation all governments need to succeed.
Many success stories are being created in Utah every day. Homegrown businesses are prospering, expansion into the state by companies, large and small is increasing and the number of inquiries grows daily, as requests for information about Utah pour into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. One can only wonder if it is all more than he expected.