July 1, 2012

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Utah’s Tech Industry is Booming

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Technology Industry Outlook

Utah Business Staff

July 1, 2012

KARANJIKAR: Ceramatec was founded in 1976 as a spinoff from the NorthStar Utah, and since then we have been owned by several different organizations and individuals. In 2008, Ceramatec was acquired by CoorsTek, which is the largest ceramics manufacturer in the world with 47 manufacturing locations.

At Ceramatec, we incubate R&D technologies, particularly Klin-Tec, mostly energy and water space, and then commercialize those in partnership with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Hiring is always a challenge in high tech, particularly chemical engineers, scientists and mechanical engineers, due to the energy renaissance in the country with all the natural gas and oil drilling. It’s impossible to find those type of people.

You can get lucky with somebody who wants to be in Utah and you find that person. But you can get pretty unlucky with people not wanting to be in Utah. They want to be where energy is hot: California, Texas. And in the energy industry, by far, they pay a lot more than any other industry sector does now in terms of net cash that employees take home. So it’s always a battle for us hiring people.

WILKINSON: Spillman Technologies is a public safety software development company. We do software like 9-1-1 dispatch, jail management systems, record management. If you get a traffic ticket in Utah, that’s our software.

Our challenge right now is finding developer talent and also keeping up with the technology needs of our customers. We work with state and city governments, even Indian reservations, and they’re very diverse in their needs and their policies and how they do things.

We hired 12 people last year. We’re hiring five this year and we’ve got three openings right now. We have 250 full-time employees.

TURNER: Aribex is a small medical device manufacturing company in Orem. We make a battery-powered, handheld X-ray machine that we sell primarily to dentists. We’re selling now to veterinarians, too.

We’ve been growing about 30 percent a year over the last three years. We’re at 53 full-time employees now. We’ve hired 10 or 11 in the last 12 months. We have two current openings, one for a medical device product manager, and we’re in the process of opening a sales and service and support office in Europe. We’ve actually had very good success with finding great people in Utah. We’ve haven’t had the same kinds of problems that the other IT companies have had. But interviewing people from Germany and Switzerland is much more difficult.

CROCKER: Crocker Ventures is a small private investment firm that focuses on life science investments. A challenge that we face is finding the innovative people. The easiest thing is to do what everybody else is doing or what everybody else has done. So finding the innovative minds, matching the things that they come up with what is possible in the regulatory atmosphere—those are the types of things we’re doing.

GRAY: Most people know Comcast as a cable company. The business side has been going now about six years. We started out focusing on small business, kind of an upgraded version of our home service with the coax network. We’ve had a really good run. We have about 1,500 employees here locally. Over the last year we started a regional collection center here and hired about 500 people into our Sandy office. So we’ve been growing as fast as we can grow. And we’ve got many openings, always looking for good people. We haven’t really had to recruit outside of Utah very hard just because the workforce here is really suited for what we’re looking for.

LINDELL: Lineagen has about 25 employees now, almost all of them here in Utah. We hired five or six of those over the last 12 months. We have one current job opening available for a cytogeneticist. There are no cytogenetics training programs here in the state of Utah, so our challenge with that is trying to convince one of the few cytogeneticists in the country to relocate here to Utah.

Our current product is called FirstStepDx. It’s a genetic test for kids with developmental delay, autism and mental retardation. Our goal with that product is to try and drive the diagnosis of those disorders early. There’s really good treatments now, but the key is getting those kids diagnosed before they’re four years old for those treatments to be really effective. And the average age of diagnosis is still five and a half, and it’s just a little too late to see those best outcomes.

Our biggest challenges today are dealing with health insurance companies and funding. We are in a unique position where we’re too late stage for early stage investors and too early stage for late stage investors. There’s not really an investment mechanism for these kind of early revenue companies like us. The reimbursement side of it is just trying to wade through the nightmare that is health insurance in the United States.

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