Hale Named New Director of GOED

A man familiar to BYU sports fans will head Gov. Gary Herbert’s economic development office.


Val Hale, who was the athletic director at Brigham Young University from 1999 to 2004, was named by Herbert on Tuesday to succeed Spencer P. Eccles, who is leaving after five years to start his own venture capitol firm.

Hale, in a press conference in the Capitol Gold Room, said Herbert approached him for the job, and he decided to take it in part because “this governor gets it” when it comes to economic development.

After leaving BYU Hale was an assistant vice president at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) and steps down as director of the Utah County Chamber of Commerce to take the state job.

Both Herbert and Hale are Utah County boys, and they said they’ve known each other for years. (Hale has BS and master’s degrees in communications and once worked as a reporter and columnist for the Provo Herald.)

Among his experiences, said Herbert, is a good relationship with Utah legislators.

Hale lobbied lawmakers on behalf of UVU as the institution moved from a college to university status.

Hale joked that he’s been in “too many” press conferences in his life – as BYU athletic director it was his job to talk to the media when good, and sometimes bad, things happened with BYU athletes – but he has never been introduced in a press conference where important folks (the Gold Room was jammed with Utah business leaders) stood up and clapped for him.

While it was Hale’s introduction that was the news of the day, Herbert spoke at some length about how well Utah under his direction has done economically.

Herbert this summer said that he will run for re-election in 2016 – and there likely will be several credible challengers for the Republican nomination, including House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, and Overstock.com president Jonathon Johnson.

And Herbert has not been shy over the last few months talking up his accomplishments.

Just a few of the points Herbert made:

— When he took office (Herbert stepped up from lieutenant governor in 2009 when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned to become American ambassador to China) the state’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.

Last month it dropped to 3.5 percent – “basically full employment” for Utahns who want a job.

— Utah’s economy is the second strongest in America, behind only North Dakota. And North Dakota’s is basically all energy related.

People know why North Dakota is doing so well – oil and natural gas. But they are more mystified about Utah’s success, said the governor.

Well, it is not a secret.

Utah has low state regulation, low tax base, educated workers who work hard, and a business growth climate second to none, Herbert said.

— GOED, under Eccles, has produced great public/private partnerships, said Herbert. “The expansion of existing businesses and birth of new businesses is remarkable.”

Much of that has to do with the fine GOED “team” Eccles and Herbert have put together, said the governor.

— Not only is Utah the best place for business overall in the United States, but it now being recognized as a global leader in business development.

— Utah, among the 50 states, has the fourth best diversified economy. “Something I’m most proud of,” said Herbert.

That means Utah is not dependent on one, two or three large economic sectors – like the military or mining or tourism.

Herbert said Hale’s job is to move Utah even higher in job growth, economic development and wealth generation.

Hale “is the right man at the right time,” said Herbert.

Hale said he would give it his all.

But he also warned that his own athletic career (at BYU) and in managing athletics has taught him that it is harder to keep “a team at championship level than it is to win the championship in the first place.”

Hale said he well knows that economic development is important to all Utahns, even if many of them don’t know it.

Every dollar that Utah business and tourist brings into the state goes into local schools, parks and communities, said Hale.

“We need to continue to grow our quality of life.”

Hale, however, may have a hard welcome into state government.

The Utah State Auditor’s office is now conducting an audit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Such audits rarely result in nothing but praise, and more often than not find problems in the agencies being audited.

Hale said he has not been briefed on what auditors are finding in GOED, but he looks forward to taking what suggestions are made and working to make the agency better.

Historically, some conservative legislators criticize government economic development activities, seen as interference with free market operations.

And some local businessmen don’t like it when GOED or other state/local economic development offices provide tax-subsidized incentives to competitors relocating or expanding in their areas.

GOED is not only losing Eccles. GOED chief deputy Sophia DiCaro is running as a Republican in House District 31, a seat now held by Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley.

DiCaro will stay in GOED as Hale settles in, said Herbert, but then will resign that job to run her legislative campaign later this fall.

UtahPolicy’s House election rankings have District 31 as “leaning Republican.”

Wiley won re-election two years ago by just 77 votes. And DiCaro has raised $12,464 so far this year compared to Wiley’s $3,094.

She has nearly $9,000 in cash to Wiley’s $1,718.

So while praising the current GOED staff, Hale will have to do some rebuilding in the agency, as well.