Utah industrialist and former gubernatorial candidate Jon M. Huntsman called on the state's business leaders to join with state government in reviving Utah's economy.
In his first public address since bowing out of the governor's race last April, Huntsman said Tuesday that local business leaders "hold the key to inviting your business friends or associates to come and locate in Utah.""You can each be absolutely vital to out state's economic recovery. You are the leaders of industry. You are the managers and officers and CEOs of our leading Utah companies," Huntsman told the Salt Lake Rotary Club.
Huntsman also announced the creation of a financing vehicle for companies in- and out-of-state, whose business plans would create more jobs in Utah. He said the program, which involves some of the state's "most experienced executives and entrepreneurs," is in its formative stages and more details would be released next month.
But, he explained following his speech that the fund has so far been put together with private money, but could involve public funds. "It will be a substantial amount for the creation of jobs in the state. It is not a venture capital fund."
Huntsman, founder and chairman of worldwide plastics giant Huntsman Chemical Corp., said his interest in Utah's economic future began two years ago. It began with a study of how other states were attracting new businesses and evolved into Huntsman, a Republican, announcing his candidacy for governor.
His announcement caused a stir within the state's Republican Party as Republican incumbent Gov. Norm Bangerter and his supporters claimed they had been double-crossed by someone who had previously committed their support.
Huntsman said he was convinced he had the solutions to the state's economic woes. But when his firm's business partners and major clients said it was premature to leave his post in private business, he reconsidered.
"Running against a fine incumbent governor and an independent from our own party was certainly not my idea of how to enjoy a relaxing summer," Huntsman added.
He explained that days before the filing deadline he met with Bangerter, discussed his concerns about Utah's economy, and was invited to participate in economic development as "Utah's Economic Ambassador."
Huntsman bowed out of the race, after raising about $600,000 in one month. Rotary President David Gillette, in introducing Huntsman, said the popular businessman still has the support if he reconsiders.
Since accepting his post as economic ambassador, Huntsman said, he and state officials have met with 19 major domestic firms and five foreign corporations to find out what incentives Utah must provide in attracting firms to locate in Utah.
Huntsman praised business leaders assisting in the economic development push at their own expense, and called on executives throughout the state to join the program by sending the message to their contacts to check out Utah.
He said his organization will meet with legislators Oct. 19 to discuss economic incentives the state can offer to attract new business.
As Huntsman Chemical expanded from a producer of hamburger containers into a global chemical concern with annual revenues of $1.2 billion, Huntsman said he learned of tax, interest, employment and other incentives, which played a role in his company locating facilities throughout the world.
With his firm's record of acquisitions, Huntsman said it was fortunate he wasn't governor or he would have tried to buy Idaho.
He said Bangerter's challenge for a private-public partnership to revive the state's economy will not come up with results overnight, but will provide the long term solutions.
"We have the framework in this state to engineer a major economic recovery and sustain that recovery through the long pull."