2023 Utah Business Leaders of the Year: Aaron Starks
President & CEO | 47G
Utah Business is proud to present the inaugural cohort of our Utah Business Leaders of the Year award. These 12 honorees represent the greatest accomplishments of Utah’s business community in 2023 and were selected by the Utah Business editorial team.
Founded in 2022 and formerly known as the Utah Aerospace and Defense Association, 47G is a self-described “ecosystem comprised of over 100 members and 20 academic institutions” to serve the aerospace, defense and cyber industries in the Beehive State.
Starks helped spearhead a brand identity change in October after a nine-month brand strategy process for the still-young organization.
“The value in that was understanding and determining who our No. 1 audience is, and it is talent,” Starks says of the rebrand. “With the most dynamic economy in America, the lowest unemployment, and [as] the youngest state in the nation, we needed a brand that can resonate with talent.”
The 47G name is significant in a couple of ways, with the number 47 being a reference to when pioneer immigrants first arrived in Utah in 1847. It’s also an acknowledgment of the lengths of human achievement. In 1954, United States Air Force Flight Surgeon Col. John Paul Stapp endured the highest G-force ever—46.2 Gs—when he broke the land record speed at 632 miles per hour and stopped in less than two seconds.
“[We want to go] where no man has gone before, taking the industry where it’s never been, and we want to push the limits of our potential.”
“We recognize our pioneer heritage in 1847, but we’re also saying we want to go 47 Gs, too,” Starks says. “[We want to go] where no man has gone before, taking the industry where it’s never been, and we want to push the limits of our potential.”
In a quest to push that potential, 2023 was a big year for 47G—one that included tapping former Congressman Chris Stewart as the organization’s chair.
“He’s got an incredible pulse on the ecosystem, so it was a no-brainer,” Starks says. “Chris has been a great asset … I’m amazed at what he’s accomplished in such a short amount of time.”
Another key accomplishment was facilitating a memorandum of understanding with the government of Ukraine to build a bridge of collaboration between Ukraine and Utah’s aerospace and defense businesses, which has already resulted in a couple of deals, Starks says.
But just as 2023 was important for 47G, Starks says the next four years are “critical.”
“We’re laying the foundation for an organization that will bless the lives of people for decades to come. The impact is rewarding,” he continues. “If we can do this right, we’re going to be able to help companies win contracts that will change the state’s economy, that will create more jobs, feed more families and create richer education opportunities at colleges and universities. Is there anything more important than that? I mean, I don’t think so.”