Part Two: A Model of Cooperation
The 9th annual Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States study, published in August, ranked Utah America's most pro-business state, nudging out Virginia for the No. 1 spot.
Utah truly stands out as an island of economic success and stability. Accolades like the Pollina ranking recognize enlightened political leaders that listen to the needs of the business community. Underlying that enlightenment is the secret to the success of economic development in Utah. The secret is hidden within the daily cooperation that occurs between Utah government, education, civic and business leaders as they work together to keep the state vibrant.
This "model of cooperation," as Alan Rindlisbacher describes it, probably had its roots in the state's pioneer heritage and is knitted into the fabric of the state. It was evident in the 1980s in the creation of the "Committee of 100" and "Metro Utah," two civic- and business-supported organizations devoted to Utah's economic development. The model of cooperation then extended into the organization of the Utah Economic Development Corporation (UEDC) in 1987, thanks to the visionary and financial support of founding investors like the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Mountain Fuel Supply (Questar Gas), Utah Power & Light (Rocky Mountain Power), Zions Bank, Salt Lake County, First Security Bank (now Wells Fargo) and Mountain Bell (now CenturyLink).
In the process, the model of cooperation reached out to state government. As a former chairman of the UEDC's Board of Directors, Louis H. Callister, chairman emeritus of the law firm Callister Nebeker & McCullough, felt a strong desire to continue uniting economic development across the public and private sectors. He remembers spending a lot of time working with economic developers in state government to cement a working relationship with them. "I worked for a couple years with Mike Lawson, executive director of the UEDC at the time, and Dave Winder, who worked in economic development for the state," he says. "We wanted to get the state involved in working with the UEDC."
Cementing the Relationship
Cementing that relationship between public and private economic developers took a giant leap forward in 2004, with the election of Governor Jon Huntsman. At that time, economic development at the state level was the responsibility of the Department of Community and Economic Development. Governor Huntsman decided to split the department in two, creating the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Department of Community and Culture.
GOED's role has evolved since then, but at the time was primarily focused on corporate recruitment and incentives, business development, rural development programs, federal procurement assistance and international trade.
In 2005, EDCUtah, which had changed its name from the Utah Economic Development Corporation to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, won the contract from GOED to represent the state in corporate recruitment. The contract came together at the beginning of EDCUtah's 2006 fiscal year and has been a key component of EDCUtah's success ever since. With GOED's support, EDCUtah has become the central source for economic development and the model of cooperation, which has been refined and strengthened over the years, is today the backbone of the organization.
"Many states have private economic development groups like ours, and in some cases they were modeled after ours, but not many of them have real partnerships with state economic development, counties, cities, higher education, civic organizations and businesses like we do. We hear from visitors quite often that our partnership with the state is a very unusual and positive relationship," says EDCUtah President & CEO Jeff Edwards.
Centralize Economic Development
Such partnerships make it easier for EDCUtah to centralize economic development efforts and provide a voice for all of its investors. "They feel engaged in the economic development process," Edwards explains. "The model has stood the test of time and we think it is very successful."
The model also makes it much less complicated for businesses to evaluate Utah locations and resources, and allows EDCUtah to extend its expertise to the local level where limited budgets and manpower may preclude some of our smaller communities from participating in economic development projects.
"It's a truly win-win relationship and we are very grateful to all of our investors for their support," says Edwards.