Establishing a fund with as much as $50 million in state and private money that would be used to help start and expand Utah businesses was one of a series of economic development incentives proposed by industrialist Jon Huntsman Wednesday before a Legislative committee.
Huntsman, who was appointed by Gov. Norm Bangerter as the state's ambassador for economic development earlier this year, said after his presentation to the Economic Development Interim Committee that the fund could be announced as soon as next month with the goal of being in operation by Feb. 1, 1989."This is clearly not a political football," Huntsman said of the six-point program that he said was developed with the help of Bang erter; Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, both R-Utah; and David Adams of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
One of the proposals, using tax credits or a reimbursement of shipping costs to equalize the expense of shipping freight out of Utah with what is charged from other states, has been discussed by independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook, one of Bangerter's opponents in his re-election effort.
Reed Searle, the governor's chief of staff, said that is the only portion of the seven-page proposal that Bangerter wants to study further. Searle said, however, that freight equalization is a good idea.
Searle said that the governor is especially enthusiastic about the fund, which he said could total as much as $100 million, with about one-fourth coming from the state retirement system and other state sources.
The governor also supports the proposal to give the Utah Housing Finance Agency the authority to issue industrial revenue bonds to businesses and municipal bonds to smaller communities for the expansion of roads, sewers and other infrastructure.
Lawmakers balked but finally approved a request earlier this year to temporarily expand the powers of the Utah Housing Finance Agency to give PEPCON, a Nevada-based manufacturer of rocket fuel, the opportunity to use industrial revenue bonds to finance a new Cedar City plant.
Other proposals detailed Wednesday include adding at least $500,000 annually to the centers of excellence programs at the state's colleges and universities. Huntsman said the $7 million given to those programs over the past two years has resulted in the investment of more than $156 million in private and federal funds.
Huntsman also called for establishing "a significant number" of endowed chairs at the state's universities for individuals conducting research that could lead to saleable products.
Such a program would help retain the 50 to 75 faculty members now responsible for the majority of the $250 million in research conducted each year on Utah campuses. "We must retain these people as well as aggressively recruit other such `super stars,' to our state," Huntsman said.
He also suggested furthering the state's efforts in providing customized training to employees of private companies, such as McDonnell-Douglas Corp. And enterprise zones could be geared to specific industries, such as aerospace or high-tech manufacturing, he said.