Fostering Dialogue: Trade takes center stage at congressional roundtable

Success in international business is impacted either positively or negatively by elected leaders and policy makers. Whether it is renegotiating NAFTA or considering tariffs, Utah’s congressional delegation has a say in how international trade is shaped and evolves.

World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) is committed to spreading awareness of the benefits of Utah exports, and that includes educating government leaders. WTC Utah, in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber, hosted an event in April to facilitate dialogue on international trade between Utah’s congressional representatives and business leaders. Representatives Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, Mia Love and Chris Stewart, as well as Gov. Gary Herbert, were in attendance.

Collaboration is key

In Utah, international business is big business, and a critical element of the state’s robust economy. The congressional roundtable connected Utah’s economic drivers—its companies—with policy makers. This kind of collaboration is what makes the state’s economy one of the strongest in the nation.

“One of the unique attributes in Utah is that our elected officials, both at a state and national level, work closely with business leaders to obtain results. The ability to sit down and discuss the importance of international business with all four representatives from the Utah congressional delegation, as well as our Governor, is an example of this cooperation and partnership,” said Terry Grant, president of the Utah market for KeyBank and a roundtable luncheon attendee. “World Trade Center Utah is leading the charge in our state to open international doors for companies and educate citizens about the positive impact of international business.”

Attendees at the roundtable represented both large and small businesses. Cody Broderick, CEO of inWhatLanguage, talked about how he relied on private and public resources when he was just getting started. He stressed the need to spread awareness of these services to all areas of the state.

“The growth at inWhatLanguage has been exciting, and we’re optimistic about the future. Along the way, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, World Trade Center Utah and the U.S. Commercial Services have been a critical part of our success. I would encourage anyone doing global business to engage and seek counsel from those organizations. They’re experts and can help on many levels of the international business landscape.”


Concerns attendees brought up included talent recruitment and the U.S. “brand” around the world. A representative from one of Utah’s larger companies believes it is important to be able to recruit talent from other countries when there is a shortage of skilled workers available in the United States. He emphasized that not having this option would reduce efficiency and hinder growth.

Amy Rees Anderson, managing partner of Rees Capital, echoed these sentiments. Prior to her current role, she started and ran a successful international company called MediConnect Global.

“MediConnect Global, Inc. was an international business with employees located in two countries. For MediConnect to keep up with our growth, and still maintain profitability, it was necessary to have employees also located outside of the U.S. where our costs were much lower. By spreading the work out, the company was able to achieve incredible growth and profitability, which allowed us to then create far more, higher-paying jobs here in Utah.”

International trade equals economic growth

The main sentiment shared at the roundtable was a desire to continue to promote and grow Utah’s international business efforts. Cynthia Gibson, board member of WTC Utah and Utah State University economic development liaison, shared some insights into how exporting helps grow Utah’s rural economies.

“The affirmation of the importance of international trade in Utah was given a highly visible boost at the World Trade Center Congressional Roundtable. As a representative of international trade in rural Utah—Grand County—I was both reassured and encouraged by our government representatives’ recognition of the role international trade plays in all of Utah. One of the largest employers in Grand County is both an importer and exporter, and this level of support is critically important to the continuance of the smooth flow of their supplies and materials across borders.”

Utah is fortunate to have members of congress who take time to listen to entrepreneurs, small business owners and community leaders and incorporate what they’ve heard into their policy decisions and lawmaking responsibilities in congress. The representatives should be commended for their engagement with the business community. This support is critical for Utah to continue to be the best performing economy in the nation.

WV-Derek-MillerDerek B. Miller is president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, an organization dedicated to helping Utah companies think, act and succeed globally.