Building Utah's workforce key to becoming Silicon Valley East

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29 2013 7:10 p.m. MST

•  Sustain the Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) with $3 million of on-going funding and increasing its ongoing research allocation by $9 million annually.

• Fund a life sciences tax credit for medical device, diagnostics, drug delivery and biotech companies.

Lawmakers also will consider the first step toward relocating the state prison, which economic development officials say would open up prime real estate for business expansion.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he and Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, are drafting a bill to create a committee to start "getting down to the guts of the issue," including looking at new prison sites and building costs. The committee, Jenkins said, will have to work quickly because of currently low interest rates.

"They're going to have to get right on this," he said.

Real estate and education aren't the only issue the business community will be watching closely during the legislative session.

Utah's image also plays a role in economic development.

One thing the Chamber doesn't want lawmakers to do is propose so-called "message" bills, which are often aimed at the federal government over issue such as gun control or public lands. Those kinds of bills are unproductive and tarnish the state's image, according to the Chamber.

"Just like immigration has been a very important statement of this state in the past, some of the gun legislation will have that same character this session, Gochnour said.

The Chamber doesn't have position on gun legislation, "but bills should be oriented toward problem solving not sending messages."

A statewide nondiscrimination ordinance also is on the Chamber priority list. Legislators have shot down proposals to pass laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity the past five years, without a committee hearing.

Salt Lake City passed Utah’s first nondiscrimination ordinance in 2009 with the backing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since then, 14 other cities and counties have adopted similar policies, leaving a patchwork of laws around the state.

"We don't like a patchwork of city ordinances," Gochnour said. "This is primarily a simplified regulation issue for us, but also important to many industries and companies."

Former Democratic Sen. Ben McAdams, now the the Salt Lake County mayor, carried the bill last year, which for the first time had a Republican sponsor in Rep. Derek Brown, of Cottonwood Heights.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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