Governor seeks to build Utah's tech profile

Published: Thursday, April 11 2013 6:25 p.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert discusses a trade mission to California prior to departing from Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's governor believes the Golden State can provide some potentially prosperous opportunities for the Beehive State in the form of jobs and economic development.

Prior to departing Thursday on a two-day trade mission to California, Gov. Gary Herbert told the Deseret News that many businesses headquartered there could grow their companies by expanding to Utah and taking advantage of what is fast becoming one of the most "business-friendly" environments in the nation.

"An example of that is Adobe, which bought a Utah business (Omniture in 2009), then stayed here and now has 1,000 employees on their Utah Adobe campus," Herbert said. "That makes Adobe more profitable, makes them stable in California and allows Adobe to expand their business and increase economic opportunity and improve their bottom line. It's a win-win."

Herbert made his comments after delivering the keynote address at the annual Utah Economic Summit. The daylong event was held at the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

During his address, Herbert told the audience in the grand ballroom that the passion and spirit of collaboration is something that makes Utah stand out as a tech hub.

"Combine that with our high quality of life, and it is no wonder that so many technology firms look to Utah as an alternative to Silicon Valley," he said. "This region, in fact, is rapidly becoming known in more and more circles as the 'Silicon Slopes' — an up and coming version of Silicon Valley."

That reputation is one of the selling points Herbert said he will highlight when visiting with business leaders during his trip to California.

Among the companies the governor will meet with is Edwards Life Sciences, which is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Herbert said he hopes to convince the company to consider expanding its operations to Utah.

He will also meet with other firms that have expressed interest in learning more about possible expansion opportunities in Utah, as well as venture capitalists who have shown interest in investing in the state.

Herbert said most of his efforts would be toward bolstering the state's growing high-tech sector, which has experienced significant growth with the development of the "Silicon Slopes" near the Salt Lake-Utah county border.

"That seems to be a niche that is growing rapidly," he said. "We want to help people become more aware so that as they look to expand, they will consider Utah."

The governor will be joined in California by fellow Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. They have scheduled joint stops beginning Thursday in Orange County, Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Both intend to position their states as antidotes to California's high taxes, notorious red tape and roller-coaster state finances.

Herbert and McDonnell became acquainted at governors conventions, and Virginia officials came up with the idea of doing a joint recruiting trip in California.

From a practical standpoint, the governors believe their double bill will attract more attention. Also, the two states do not see each other as direct rivals, in part because of the distance between them.

The development of land that would be made available by a proposal to relocate the state prison will not be part of any discussion on the trip, Herbert said. During the 2013 Legislature, lawmakers pitched the idea of moving the prison to open up prime real estate near "Silicon Slopes."

But Herbert said it would be premature to begin such considerations at this point.

"Our motivation (for the proposed prison relocation) is not for the economic development," he said. "Our motivation is for the public safety aspects. If we can find that they are compatible, then we'll have the proverbial win-win."

Regarding the state's outreach effort to lure business expansion to Utah, Herbert said such attempts have been made regularly over the course of many gubernatorial administrations, and this is a continuation of the strategy to grow the state's economy and create more jobs for Utahns.

"We are a high-tech state with an international airport, so we are convenient from a travel standpoint," he said. "We have a competitive tax structure, and we've got a labor force that is probably the best in America. As people start learning about the business aspects of Utah, we want to make sure we are on everybody's radar screen, (and) when they make their plans for future growth, Utah ought to be a place they consider."

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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