Utah and Technology
Innovation and Growth
From its vibrant red canyons to its incomparable river valleys to its soaring mountain peaks, Utah is blessed with scenic diversity. But don't be fooled into thinking the landscape is the only richly textured thing about the state: Utah has always had more than its share of technological innovators, and the number has been growing in recent years.
Perhaps the state's earliest technological advancement came when the first Mormon settlers, walking the long journey from the East to Utah, created a wagon-wheel odometer to resolve an ongoing disagreement about how many miles were covered each day. Since that time, innovators have flocked to the state, making it one of the most technologically advanced in the country.
Think of Pixar, the ground-breaking animation production company that has won more than 20 Academy Awards. Pixar's founder was educated at the University of Utah, as were the founders of Atari -- the pioneer in home video game consoles -- Adobe Systems, and Silicon Graphics, to name a few.WordPerfect, Novell and Iomega were founded and are headquartered in Utah. And that's just a tiny sampling of the more than 5,200 high-tech companies that have located themselves in the beautiful state. Of those, 79 percent are IT firms. These companies employ a total of 66,000 people, and pay salaries 58 percent higher, on average, than the statewide annual nonagricultural wage, according to data cited in the Deseret News. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Salt Lake City -- an area located in the Utah Valley's technology-rich center -- as the best city for jobs in the country, citing its technology abundance as one of the reasons for the flourishing job market.
Now, despite the current economic challenges the country is facing, Utah is struggling less than most. A recent survey of CEOs, CFOs and senior human resource executives among Utah companies showed that 63 percent report "growing" or "thriving" current revenues, the Deseret News reported.
Utah's Workforce: Ability plus Professional Values
Utah's tech environment is growing thanks to a number of factors. Ron Hovsepian, CEO of global software giant Novell -- a company that has been instrumental in making the Utah Valley a focus for high-tech software development -- points to the state's unique strengths that are critical to the growth of high-tech companies:
- Fantastic engineers that are innovative leaders
- A workforce with abilities that go beyond technical knowledge, encompassing multilingual skills and high overall education
- Good balance of the right type of workers with professionalism and values – they take pride in their work
- Low-cost data center facilities
Government Supports High-Tech
The Utah government knows that technology companies form the backbone of a vibrant and economically growing business community. With that in mind, it supports technological growth in a number of ways. For example:
- In 2002, Utah's legislature collaborated with the information technology and life sciences industries in the state to develop the “Utah Fund of Funds.” The fund creates a series of incentives to draw funding into Utah’s economy to provide needed growth capital for promising companies in the state.
- In 2006, the State of Utah enacted the Utah Science Technology and Research economic development initiative. USTAR enhances collaboration between Utah’s tech companies and universities, with special emphasis on areas where Utah already enjoys competitive advantage.
- Utah’s government has a strong tradition of collaborating with the state’s private sector to create innovative economic development legislation.
- Programs such as the Utah Centers of Excellence are helping create compelling jobs and companies in the state.