Utah: The Other Silicon Valley

Apr 15, 2013

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By: Mike Green
The Utah State Seal

Utah Is Where It’s At

When you think Utah likely a few things come to mind: Mormons, Utah Jazz basketball, National Parks, and snow skiing to name a few. But did you know that Utah is increasingly being seen as a major player in technology? Below I’ll outline a few factors that have transformed this otherwise quiet mountain state into a major player for this decades tech scene.

State Government

In the late 90’s, the Utah state government started paving the way for what they felt like would be the key to future business. Significant relationship investments were made in places like China to leverage Utah’s unique business aptitude and workforce. Whether they were aware or not, creating those inroad and establishing a business open mindedness of its residents paved the way for the tech boom that would happen years later. I’m not referring to the tech “bubble” that happened at the turn of the decade, but the boom that ensued. Many of those companies that survived the bubble’s burst found a home or invested heavily in Utah. Companies like Adobe, Qualtrics, Vivint, and others. By 2012, Utah was expected to lead the nation in tech hiring (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/55451001-79/utah-percent-hiring-report.html.csp)

That commitment to tech has not faded as politicians rotated in and out of office. Utah’s unique geographic proximity sets itself up perfectly for those tech giants that turned brick and mortar. Not only does Utah have the tech IQ to match silicon valley, but Utah also has the logistics to fulfill. It makes you wonder if politicians might actually know what they’re doing…

Corporate Attraction

In Utah County, where our Provo office of Innovation Simple is located, we have a new promenante neighbor. Adobe. When asked why they chose Utah as a place to invest, Mark Garret, Adobe’s executive vice president and chief financial officer said “The tax incentive was certainly one of the attractions in Utah’s favor, but it was the talent and skill of the work force, the general business climate and quality of life were very appealing. Its also close to California, and Utah has a strong working relationship between business and its very technology-minded university system”. Adobe started their path of settling in Utah by purchasing a Utah based tech powerhouse Omniture. This acquisition exposed Adobe to the potential skill, talent, and proximity that Utah offers.

Utah is currently courting close to 300 other companies to join the mountain state. With tax benefits and employee quality of life as their arrows, Utah is focused on establishing a solid foundation of technology throughout the state. The current Utah governor stated “The positive impact of having a company of Adobe’s caliber choosing Utah as the place to expand its operations cannot be understated. As a result of this expansion, the state will see benefits to economic development across all industries.”

Cultural Influences

Due to Utah’s notorious reputation for “clean” living, many established professionals seek Utah as a place to raise their family. As corporate culture becomes more mainstream, led by the tech community, Utah becomes more and more attractive. For those that are looking for the type of fun that Utah isn’t known for, its proximity to California, Las Vegas, and other refuges position Utah well.

Another unique cultural feature in Utah, as stated before, is the commitment by Utah’s higher education schools. Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, among others all have a strong marketing and technology related focus. Because of that aim, some of todays strongest brands and products have been forged right here in Utah. Have you heard of Blendtec’s “Will it blend” series? How about the Youtube sensation The Piano Guys? Or how about the Orabrush? That’s right. All from Utah. The programs at the local universities have complimented the state’s commitment to technology by churning out high quality individuals that can make an immediate impact on their company.

The Future of Utah

As the worlds tech scene goes from bubble to boom to brick and mortar, so too will Utah’s economy. New tech growth means new homes to build, new roads to construct, and new taxes to pay. All of which is good for Utah’s sustainable growth. While the small town feel may suffer, Utah’s unique culture will prevail and continue to drive business and innovation. Innovation Simple has invested into three different locations within Utah. Salt Lake City, Provo, and St. George. All three offices have a commitment to their host community. We welcome our new tech neighbors and they discover what many of the locals have known for years.

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