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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

Betts: Utah tech industry hub is going to move to the northBrice WallaceSilicon Slopes is currently the epicenter of Utah’s booming tech world. Butthat explosion straddling the Salt Lake County-Utah County border could edgenorthward in the next few years.Clint Betts, executive director of both the Silicon Slopes organization andthe Utah Technology Council, said last week that expanding the tech industrythroughout the state could result in the capital city becoming its heart.“I think in 10 years, Salt Lake City will be the hub of tech,” Betts said atthe Newsmaker Breakfast at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner PolicyInstitute. “I think it has to be in the state of Utah. I think it’s alreadyweird that it’s not right now. But the way to solve that and to make it goeven sooner would be to build companies here.”Betts contrasted Utah’s situation with that of Austin, Texas, where the techecosystem surrounds the city. “It is strange and there is something to belooked at, the fact that the hub of Utah’s tech community is not in Salt LakeCity, its biggest city, right? It’s 20 minutes south.”That Utah’s tech growth has been booming between Provo and Salt Lake Citycould be the result of available farmland that turned into tech buildings andcampuses, but more likely was the region being appealing to companies wantingto attract talent from both Provo to the south and Salt Lake City to thenorth, he said.Cydni Tetro, president of the Women Tech Council, agreed. “It has all beenabout talent pull,” she said, noting that a tech company located at Point ofthe Mountain has easy access to potential workers who have graduated fromBrigham Young University, Utah Valley University and the University of Utah.Much of last week’s discussion focused on issues facing the industry and howto spread its success to more people, including women, minorities and peopleoutside the Wasatch Front.Tetro said the tech industry in Utah needs to disperse, which technology willallow. While some old-school companies require their workers to be in theoffice every single day, “the coolest part about technology is, this is nottrue,” she said.For example, technology enables her to work while at her son’s soccer game,during spring break or during late evenings after her children go to bed.“It is the change in people’s minds who run companies, to make sure that theyknow how to operate in remote areas,” she said. “The best thing we can do toget companies to disperse is understand how you have a hub and how you supportflexibility. It’s also the very best way to recruit women.”Job growth in Utah’s tech industry averaged 3.6 percent a year from 2007 to2017, more than double employment growth in the tech industry nationwide.Betts said Utah’s strong tech sector has led to “success challenges” thatinclude issues related to talent, transportation, housing affordability, airquality, workforce diversity and education. All, he said, are about extendingopportunity available in technology.“We’ve never had the success that we saw in 2018 in our community’s history,”he said. “2018 was a semina year for Utah tech. The success of our communityis unbelievable. It’s crazy, right? That success is not evenly distributed, byany means.”For example, housing is perhaps the most critical such issue, he said.“As you look at Silicon Valley and the fact that if you don’t work in tech inSilicon Valley, you no longer live in Silicon Valley and [there is] the classdivide that has happened there,” Betts said.“It is for sure a crisis there, what’s happened, and if we’re not beingcareful and thoughtful about housing and our density and where we’re settingup these hubs for tech innovation and thinking about how we can spread italong and not just [be at] Thanksgiving Point or not just between Provo andSalt Lake but really throughout the state, it’ll be a real challenge.”One way to address that challenge is to ensure that students in every schoolin Utah have access to computer education by 2022 — a priority for SiliconSlopes. Tetro and her organization want to see more women in the industry —throughout the ranks.“We know that diverse teams increase revenue and profits, we know they’recritical to the growth of the state,” she said. “We cannot recruit, we cannotretain, unless we have diversified workforces.”Looking back, Betts said that while Utah needs workers at all levels in theindustry, the state’s struggles to attract top-level management talent haseased a bit. Tetro noted that about 15 years ago, the industry in Utah had noventure capital — that, too, has improved — and its companies were too smallto build management talent.However, she added, “we had the foresight to start talking about it then.”“Today, everything’s got to be focused on talent pipeline and theinfrastructure to support it, so you don’t lose the way of life that peoplelove and that attracts them to Utah. It’s a complicated problem. We have abouttwo decades before our population doubles to solve that problem, but we haveto solve it now,” she said.“I think we have to get really good at being collective as a community tocreate both policies and programs and a combined effort on the things that wevalue most, to then build those out. It’s everyone. It’s universities, it’sgovernment, it is the venture capital, it’s technology, it’s communities.Nobody gets to sit by the wayside. If we don’t all come together, we won’tsolve these problems, and they’re big.”

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