The greatest economic challenge Utah faces is improving its own business community's attitude about the state's economy, Gov. Norm Bangerter told a group of Utah County businessmen Tuesday.
"The biggest challenge we face, of course, is the image we sometimes have of ourselves," Bangerter said. "We really can be successful. We need to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps."The governor spoke at the Riverside Country Club to leaders from county businesses such as Geneva Steel and Signetics Corp.
Utah must develop an atmosphere that will attract businesses and make them want to stay in the state, and that must begin with an upbeat attitude among business leaders already established here, Bangerter said.
"We need to create two or three times as many jobs to meet population growth in the state of Utah. We had nothing to start with when we came into office, and I think it's safe to say we could hand somebody coming in today at least 30 companies we're working (to attract to the state)," he said.
Bangerter said industrialist Jon Huntsman could do a lot to attract new businesses to Utah.
After Huntsman withdrew from the governor's race last week, he agreed to help the Bangerter administration work on economic growth.
"I think he can be helpful. There's no question he has some strengths in that area. He has some contacts," Bangerter said.
One important element in attracting new companies is developing a good reputation for the state's public school system, and the business leaders grilled Bangerter about that Tuesday. The governor said education shouldn't get more money, but it probably won't get less than it has now.
"I don't think we can afford more money from the economy (for education). I don't think we can afford to take money away from education, either. Education is the one thing I have a very difficult time to get a handle on," he said. "I want more local control. The system is too distant from the people it serves. My view is to take the money and drive it to the classroom."
Bangerter said the state should stop penalizing districts that don't use all of the state money allocated for things like transportation. Now, districts have to return leftover funds to the state, but if they were allowed to use that money for other programs there would be an incentive to improve efficiency.
Some of the business leaders told Bangerter that they also are concerned about electricity rates, especially because of the possibility Utah Power & Light will merge with PacifiCorp.