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Lead by Example
RIGBY: There are some states that give as much as a 40 percent tax credit on the investment you make. They give the credit the same year you make the investment—if you make a $100,000 investment, you get a $40,000 dollar tax credit against state taxes. That really has worked well in the states that are doing that.
ESBER: Especially if the capital gains tax goes up substantially.
SLOVIK: I find it’s harder to attract people to come here than it is to get them to stay here once they have been here. We should have a program that’s kind of like the GI bill or something. For example, tuition is free for any computer science or engineering student from outside the state who comes to the U and maintains an A-minus GPA and agrees to work here for at least two years after graduation.
We keep trying to grow it from inside, and that’s great. But we need to get the top people from around the country. Once they are here, if they do well and they stay here for a couple of years working, that’s great for the economy. And they will stay.
JOHNSON: I would add that students need to learn from “been there, done that” type professors, where they really exit the university having a good grasp on what it’s like in the real world, they exit prepared to make a difference in those companies. We find that oftentimes the students have good fundamentals but there’s a couple years worth of teaching and mentoring after they enter the workforce to really get them ready to contribute.
BLACK: I think the H1 visa program is broken. We have clients who are trying to get talented people that we struggle to find here locally, so we try to bring them. I have an employee living in Japan, and the process of getting him legal, it’s a nightmare. And we need him. It might not be very popular, but there’s a lot of talented people outside the country that can’t get here to work, and that would solve a lot of problems. And we need a tighter partnership with universities—some of them are out of touch with the reality of industry, and they need to kick out better talent.
BORGHETTI: Are you aware of a formal feedback mechanism with any university in the state and private enterprise that can regularly meet and match up needs to what’s being produced? From my experience, you look at somebody coming out of the college—I don’t care what college—they don’t have the right skill. It seems like there’s industry and then there’s education. It’s sort of like, “Well, here is our graduating class. Go get them.”
McALEER: There is actually a program that’s a joint venture between Utah State Higher Education, the Department of Workforce Services and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It’s called the Utah Cluster Acceleration Program. I think that program has gone through about five different industry verticals from aerospace to biomedical devices to digital media. From time to time I think that it’s being effective. As I sit here today, I certainly know it’s not being effective. There’s too much focus on, “Where is this industry going to be in five to 20 years,” instead of, “What do we need in the next 24 to 36 months for employees?”
I agree that this message has not been clearly delivered out of the analysis process back to the deans and department chairs that can pivot their educational system. We all use the term “pivot” in entrepreneurship. But pivoting in public higher ed is really tough. Pivoting for some of the private not-for-profits is much quicker. It is also quicker at a community college because they are used to shifting on a dime to create this kind of a workforce. We have got to make sure that the universities are taking the advice of you who are hiring in the IT space and pivoting to give you what you need.
Regarding recruitment, if we can do a better job of bringing middle- to upper-management people to Utah, they do have rolodexes. If I come from Philadelphia, I can bring 15 of the guys that loved working for me in Philadelphia and bring them out here. It’s those kinds of people that can actually start to drag their network out here.
RIGBY: I agree with the comment that it’s hard to get people here, but once they are here, they won’t leave. We have a stickiness about being here, because it’s such a great environment to live in. The CEO that I brought in to run ZARS Pharma—we brought him in kicking and screaming and had to add all kinds of incentives and probably more stock than we should have given him. And now he doesn’t want to leave. He is looking for his next deal and he wants to stay here, even though his kids are gone.
WIDLANSKY: I’m an example of this. I’m nine years into my five-year plan to be in Utah. And I love it here. But in order for me to recruit effectively, I have to be able to convince them that the schools are good here, that their kids are going to get a good education. There’s a lot of infrastructure stuff that is pretty problematic.