Thursday, February 28, 2013

Building Utah's workforce key to becoming Silicon Valley East

Instead of a place to keep felons behind bars, the ground on which the Utah State Prison now sits could someday be the hub of a sprawling business community where bright minds unlock the door to new technology.

The burgeoning IT corridor in southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County is poised to be the focal point of Utah's economic future. It's where the state's two largest metropolitan areas converge, both of which have major universities and expanding transportation systems. Companies including Adobe and eBay already call it home.

The governor and state lawmakers convening this week have key roles in preparing the state to take advantage of an anticipated boom, particularly in information technology and life sciences.
And a key component of that is education and building the workforce.

Companies like Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble came to Utah primarily because of its business-friendly environment and stellar workforce.

Those two firms account for nearly 2,600 jobs and will pay $437 million in corporate income tax over the next 20 years, all of which goes directly to public education, according to the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

But even though Utah has the second fastest growing economy in the nation, there are signs that the quality of the workforce might not be able to keep up in the technology arena.

Some top economic development officials fear a well-known company might decide against coming to Utah because the state wouldn't be able to supply enough tech-related graduates to fill its needs.
On average, public schools see about 14,000 new students a year, costing an additional $75 million annually.

Bringing a business like Goldman Sachs to Utah each year helps cover those growing education costs. Deseret News