August 1, 2011

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Alex Lawrence

Jenni Smith




Industry Outlook

Utah Business Staff

August 1, 2011

TANNER: I’ve moved here three times. I keep moving away and coming back. But I’m trying to hire an SVP of R&D out of California right now. The salary’s good, we’ve got everything done. But he wants to commute and I can’t do it. What do I do? This guy is exactly what I want, he’s my dream-come-true employee, he’s got everything I need—but I can’t get him to move.

He doesn’t understand the economy. He doesn’t understand the culture. He doesn’t realize if it doesn’t work, there are a thousand jobs around the table here. But that message doesn’t resonate. And I can tell it to him all I want.

HALL: As an industry, telling our story collectively would definitely help us with marketing and attracting talent. I remember when I first got introduced to the concept of Silicon Slopes. I would love to see that posted in a nationwide campaign, in technology magazines, really telling the story of what we’re trying to do here in Utah. Making that kind of an investment would make a tremendous amount of sense.

We also have a recruiting video that addresses a lot of what we’re saying. It’s actually on our website. It talks about our Salt Lake City story. We’re here because it’s a great business climate. Utah’s got a great talent pool. Not large enough, but I think over time we’ll get there.

With all the accolades Utah has received over the last couple years—we were recently ranked, again, number one for economic outlook for the public sector as well as the private sector—has that helped the image of Utah?

PEDERSEN: I’m not sure they’re seeing that. Maybe we need to do a better job of promoting that.

SYLVESTER: I moved out here two and a half years ago from the East Coast. So I have a personal exposure to this. And it was not on the radar. It wasn’t that there were misconceptions of Utah—it might as well have been the moon. I’m not trying to insult anyone. It wasn’t that people had weird ideas. It was, “Why are you going?”

When we’re recruiting in the Mountain West, people know about Utah. But the Mountain West is tiny in comparison to the people that are in the big states. And so when we’re looking for folks, no one is going to leave Silicon Valley.

I think there’s a lot of fantastic things about Utah. I would be happy to talk to anybody who is in a similar situation about possibly coming out. But honestly, if I had kids, I don’t know if I would have made that jump. It would have been a harder thing to do. I chose to take an hour commute and live in Park City so people would come and visit me, because they’ve heard of Park City.

It’s not just the specifics. There’s even just a brand awareness that just has to get out there. I’ll be honest. I love the state. I love the atmosphere. But I’m here for that one opportunity. But I really don’t know how long I’m going to be with Ancestry. It’s a great company. It’s doing wonderful. But my expectation is when that’s over, I’m not going to be back in Utah.

CULLIMORE: Stereotypes are hard to change. It takes a long time to do that. In my particular example, we made an acquisition in the ‘90s. When we were all done, they said, “Our biggest hesitancy was that you were Mormons from Utah.” That was their comment. Since that time, we’ve made probably eight other acquisitions. And because of the reputation we built in the industry, that was never an issue. In fact, that became a non-issue. It became more of a plus.

But my point is simply this: We’re the ambassadors. We’re the ambassadors who are out there making a difference. It’s important for us to recognize that we have the ability to make that change over time. We just have to be persistent. We have to be proud of where we’re from.

TANNER: I have five employees out of Kansas City, and they commute quite often here. Two of them are now asking if they can move here. But they had to get over the stereotype and they had to get over the fact that it’s—you know, it’s the moon. And once they understand that, suddenly they’re coming and saying, “Will you help us move out there?” And the answer is always yes.

PEDERSEN: We need to brand Utah better. And we’ve got to spend the money. Especially because we’ve been named number one for business and careers in Forbes. Let’s capitalize on that.

BRUNI: I want to touch on Silicon Valley because I feel like Utah has that sort of culture and mindset, but there is a big gap in pay. We bring people here, we’ve seen them not succeed at the level we want and they can’t find jobs at a level pay. Having been at two startups that have grown rapidly and seen the different pay scales from a startup to a big company, it feels like in Utah, those resources for good technology—a mid-level engineer—are being sucked up by companies like Oracle, the LDS Church and even larger companies.

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