2023 Utah Business Leaders of the Year: Natalie Gochnour
Director | Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute
Associate Dean | David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah
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.
t the core of Natalie Gochnour’s philosophy is “applied hope,” which is different from optimism in that “hope implies action.” It’s a trait she attributes to her mother, who raised 11 children with resilience and foresight.
From observing her family’s dynamics, Gochnour extracted valuable lessons that now steer her professional compass. A book on economics from her mother sparked a lifelong passion for policy, which led her to serve more than 24 years with former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. Under his mentorship, Gochnour learned the principle of “continual productivity,” a philosophy for dealing with challenges and setbacks.
“Sometimes, you’ll be treated unfairly. Sometimes, you’ll be disappointed. Sometimes, someone will hurt or do wrong to you,” she says. “The Leavitt approach was always to take the high road to be continually productive.”
Gochnour’s narrative weaves through the fabric of Utah’s policy reforms with the thread of a belief in the transformative power of the “productive middle.”
“In the often-polarized arena of public policy, I have found a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment in the space that takes the best ideas from both the left and the right,” she says. “It’s about problem-solving rather than ideologically posturing, about respecting differing opinions enough to listen.”
Utah’s welfare reform during the Clinton administration exemplified the “productive middle,” rewarding work and encouraging employment while upholding a vital safety net. Similarly, the state’s balanced transit strategy—embracing roads and rail—reflects a pragmatic approach to metropolitan transportation needs. Gochnour will continue to apply this principle as she works to help shape “The New Utah,” through which she is “deeply motivated to helping this state progress and, at the same time, hold on to all of the things we value.”
“It’s about problem-solving rather than ideologically posturing, about respecting differing opinions enough to listen.”
Major projects on the horizon for Gochnour include helping Utah land a Major League Baseball franchise, hosting the 2034 Olympic Winter Games, helping the University of Utah become a “top 10” university and advancing the level of dignity in our political language. When balancing her extensive portfolio of projects and responsibilities, she emphasizes her robust support system of family, employers, mentors and team members.
“I’ve had incredible support. That includes my loving and supportive husband, supportive and healthy children, and an extended family that not only supports me but grounds me,” Gochnour says. “You also can’t succeed without supportive bosses and the support of those around you—public policy is a team sport.”
Reflecting on the wisdom garnered through years of public service and personal growth, Gochnour offers this advice: believe.
“The biggest thing I would tell my younger self is to believe. To walk in faith and have a deep conviction that it’s all going to turn out,” she says. “I don’t have to concern myself with the day-to-day as long as I’m directionally correct in where I’m headed.