By Jacob Sebert
“We are in the business of DOING”, says Taylor Randall, Dean of the David Eccles School of Business. There has been a lot of talk about Utah’s state of entrepreneurship in the last couple years. The New York Times and Washington Post have named Utah the next Silicon Valley. However, Utah has much more than just tech startups. Forbes ranked Utah the #1 state for business four out of the last five years. From energy to software and even medical devices, Utah has it all. What makes Utah such a fertile area for business and entrepreneurship? Is all the hype real?
As you walk through the brand new 20,000 square foot Lassonde Institute, you can feel the creative energy within the building. This is home to many young entrepreneurs and is not located in Silicon Valley, rather the Silicon Slopes. At the base of the Wasatch Mountains, the Lassonde Institute of Entrepreneurship, “provides people, mentors, information, and an avenue to take theoretical concepts and turn them into practice” says Dolly Holt a bioengineering post doctorate student and inventor.
Pierre Lassonde, founder and chair of the Franco Nevada Corporation and Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, believes that we can develop an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and in return create tens of thousands of jobs within the state. “You’ve got jobs, and well-paying jobs because they are in the high technology industry.” Pierre knows that not every student is going to become an entrepreneur but if one does create a company with jobs, it will positively affect this area.
Thad Kelling, the marketing manager at Lassonde institute, believes the institute will “help many students launch startup companies, which often stay in Utah and help grow jobs and revenue for the state. These startups employ local people, and they are utilizing services and business in the state.” He also shared why he believes Utah has been so successful in business. “Utah is a place where businesses of all sizes can start, grow and thrive. We see this now in our community with large companies choosing to relocate to Utah.”
University of Utah is not the only one with an entrepreneurship program. Brigham Young University has had an entrepreneurship and technology program since the late 1980’s. Utah State University also has the Jeffrey D. Clark center for entrepreneurship. All of these universities are designed to take students through the stages of new venture creation such as opportunity assessment, business model development, planning, funding, and marketing.
Taylor Randall, Dean of the David Eccles School of Business, believes that state of entrepreneurship in Utah has increased and developed. “I see more and more students starting companies, finding success, and then mentoring others. In this state, entrepreneurship is a team sport. Our students work with successful entrepreneurs to learn and grow their ideas.” Dean Randall sees the Lassonde Institute as being very helpful to the economy of Utah. “In the information age, economies are fueled by ideas and the Lassonde Institute propels student ideas into jobs and income for the Utah economy.”
One entrepreneur who was lured by Utah’s business appeal is Todd Pedersen, founder and CEO of Vivint. After he sold his first endeavor, a pest control company, Pedersen started providing smart home security based out of Provo. Now Vivint is a $527 million company with 7,000 employees. Theo Zourzouvillys, CTO at Jive Communications, originally working in England, moved to Utah because of its “serene setting and family-first ethos”. There are many reasons for Utah’s appeal to business. The 5% flat corporate tax rate and continued job growth rate are just a couple.
Utah has one of the nations highest job growth rates of approximately 3%.
Utah’s economy is ranked at number three with a 2.8 percent growth in GDP since last year. This is the third highest rate in the nation. Utah is one of the 10 states with AAA bond rating from all three agencies. The housing market is also one of the healthiest in the nation at the moment. For the fourth year in a row the state came first in the 2015 Pollina Corporate Real Estates ten pro-business states list. Utah businesses have attracted $732 million in venture capital last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Salt Lake City and Provo are amid the top three, dollar per deal averages for VC funding across the nation (Provo-Orem at $51.3 million, and Salt Lake City at $17.2 million).
A study done in 2015 by the Praxis Strategy Group for the U.S. Founder of Commerce Foundation ranked Utah first for innovation and entrepreneurship, second for high-tech performance, third for economic performance, fifth for transportation and trade, and seventh for business climate. It’s no wonder that Utah’s economy is thriving.
Utah has a diversified economy, which makes it so successful compared to other states. As Governor Gary Herbert would say “we don’t put all our eggs in one basket”. If one sector is down, the other sectors are up. For example North Dakota has a great economy but when oil prices drop the economy suffers. The same goes for Alaska, Oklahoma, and Texas. Utah has had a drop in mining and natural resource development, however the state still has 3.5% unemployment and 3.3% job growth. Utah is a wonderful place to start a business because of its stable economy and business friendly environment. Come take a ride and experience the Silicon Slopes.