World Trade Center Utah Marks 10th Year

Salt Lake City—Ten years ago, World Trade Center Utah was made up of two guys wedged in a closet in the Salt Lake Chamber building.

A decade later, the nonprofit business organization has expanded its staff considerably and moved into its own building, but the biggest mark of its progress and success is found in the growth of Utah’s export economy, said Lew Cramer, original CEO and President of World Trade Center Utah—from $6 billion a year in exports then to $19 billion last year.

“We started small,” Cramer said. “I look around at the businesses and the growth and the progress that have come because of this, and it’s amazing what’s been accomplished.”

The occasion was marked by a kickoff to the organization’s new monthly series, Thought Leader Symposium. It featured remarks from current and past leaders of the World Trade Center Utah, as well as from Gov. Gary Herbert and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was instrumental in starting the first World Trade Center Utah.

In 2004, Gov. Olene Walker sent a party to the global World Trade Center meeting in Switzerland. Jack Sunderlage, who attended the Swiss meeting, said the trip made a convincing argument to form a local one to focus on and build local exporting opportunities. Huntsman, who was then governor-elect, green-lit the venture, and in July 2005 the 501(c)3 for the organization was formed. Huntsman also suggested the committee formed to find an inaugural president and CEO look at Cramer, who was then working in Washington, D.C.  In 2006, Cramer took the reins of the new organization, and got to work.

Cramer said when people would ask who was working for the World Trade Center Utah, he’d joke that it was the entire population of Utah, because of the need for a statewide effort to improve the economy overall and goods for export. Herbert said that ability to pull together is the secret behind the state’s laundry list of accolades for economic strengths earned over the past several years.

“Because of the work of many, our state’s economy is stronger than ever before,” Herbert said. “We can do a lot more if we’re pulling together than if we’re pulling separately. … The ability to pull together is alive and well in Utah.”

Herbert also credited Huntsman’s policies as governor for laying the framework that allowed the state to weather and recover from the economic downturn so heartily.

“If you don’t have a healthy economy, it’s tough to do anything else,” said Herbert, who was once Huntsman’s lieutenant governor. “We are the benefactors of Gov. Huntsman’s efforts in so many ways.”

Huntsman, whose resume of public service extends beyond governing Utah to include working for every president since Ronald Reagan, serving as ambassador to China and vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, said he was pleased at the progress World Trade Center Utah had made in 10 years.

“I am so proud of what the World Trade Center Utah has done,” he said. “It’s doing today and will do in the future what we intended it to do.”

Cramer also expressed hope and confidence in the next 10 years—and beyond—for World Trade Center Utah.

“We are just on the cusp of something great,” he said. “I know these foundations we’ve built will become something great.”