December 6, 2013

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Resolutions for a Better Utah

Execs Provide their Top Priorities for Improving the Beehive State

By Utah business leaders

December 6, 2013

Longer term, we cannot lose sight of the importance of educating our kids. While the pressures of the economy take their toll, we have to make sure that we continue to make education one of our top priorities for the state.

Jane Ann Craig

CEO, Total Dental Administrators

In 1995, I launched a Utah domiciled company with offices in both Utah and Arizona. In response to addressing regulatory requirements, my one company grew to four companies, two domiciled in Utah and two companies in Arizona. One of the greatest challenges we faced in launching and building a “start-up-to-acquisition” enterprise in Utah would be in navigating the regulatory requirements along with the costs and risks associated with the timeliness of regulatory processes. This was especially challenging in the start-up years of our company and again during our acquisition. Although we have exceptional access and personnel in Utah government, it would be helpful to have greater business advocacy within Utah’s regulatory departments and improved timeliness in processes, hearings, approvals, audits, etc.

Aaron Skonnard

CEO, Pluralsight

As Gov. Herbert recently reiterated, the top priority for Utah to grow its economy and business base is education. The governor’s goal, as outlined by the Prosperity 2020 coalition, is to have two-thirds of Utah adults attain some kind of post-secondary education by the end of this decade. I think this is absolutely imperative, as Utah’s talent pool is a vital ingredient in maintaining and growing the state’s competitive stance now and in the future.

In addition to growing and retaining homegrown talent, we need to strengthen our ability to recruit top talent, including senior executives, from out of state. Utah offers an excellent quality of life and is consistently ranked as a top destination for business and careers, so we’re building on a strong foundation. We need to further exploit the state’s strengths to lure great people here.

We need to ratchet up efforts in telling Utah’s story far and wide. The state already makes a significant effort in marketing Utah as a great place to do business, but I think it would be powerful to put more emphasis on positioning the state as a rising tech hub. There have been private efforts at doing this, as evidenced by the Silicon Slopes initiative, but there is real power in a broader, concerted effort to solidify Utah’s image as a destination for companies and professionals in the technology arena.

Peter Metcalf

CEO, President and Co-Founder,

Black Diamond, Inc.

As we Utahns learned during the two-week shutdown of our National Parks and Forest Service campgrounds, we are the lucky beneficiaries of an amazing bargain: We reap not only the economic windfall that these parks and other federally protected lands provide, but also the quality of life benefits that come with a backyard that is famous the world over. If allowed to function, the federal agencies that manage these lands are more than capable of facilitating this vital sector of the economy. And if they’re not—well, you just witnessed it. I think “devastating” was the word used by Gov. Herbert.

That’s why the state of Utah’s ludicrous land grab must stop. Its appalling and frivolous lawsuits over dirt roads on public lands must stop. The anti-federal posturing must stop. If the governor and Utah’s congressional representatives are serious about supporting businesses and the local economy, then it’s time they stop biting the hand that feeds them. If Utah’s pipe dream of permanently managing these lands were to come true, the result would be disastrous for our economy. Utah has had enough trouble funding its own state parks, the size, complexity and responsibility of which does not begin to compare with the responsibility of managing the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service areas we have in Utah. (That’s leaving aside the fact that attempting to seize these lands constitutes outright theft from the rest of the country.)

If the governor and Utah’s congressional representatives are serious about supporting businesses and the local economy, then it’s time they stop biting the hand that feeds them. Our economy’s vitality is already substantially dependent on the recreational benefits and beauty of our federal lands. By embracing that ownership and a higher level of protection for the truly iconic and unprotected landscapes that define Utah, we would be securing our long-term sustainable economic future. Unfortunately, we appear currently to be engaged in an ideological form of economic hara-kiri that puts our future economic well being at risk.

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