Article

Governor Gary R. Herbert

Leading the Way

Tom Haraldsen

March 1, 2011

Should you meet Utah Governor Gary Herbert in his office in the State Capitol, at a business or education conference, or even in the grocery store where he does his own shopping, don’t be surprised to see him smiling. He has plenty of reasons to be upbeat about the state of the State of Utah.

The Beehive State is buzzing with economic activity. It’s not only surviving the aftermath of the nation’s worst recession since the Great Depression, it’s thriving. Although he would be reluctant to take too much credit, Utah’s economic strength is, in no small part, a result of Governor Herbert’s leadership, vision and economic development plans.

The accolades heaped on Utah are well-publicized and well-deserved. Economists, business development experts and national magazines have touted the state as the nation’s “happiest” (MSNBC/Gallup poll), “healthiest” (Forbes), and “youngest” (median age of 28.7). Utah has the “most dynamic economy” (Kaufmann New State Economy Index), is the “most inventive state” (CNNMoney.com), and is the “best state for business and careers” (Forbes). One of only eight states which retains an AAA bond rating from all three of the major rating agencies, Utah has the lowest debt per capita of any state in the nation (Forbes). Utah has also been named the “best managed state” in the country (Pew Center on the States).

Sharpening its competitive edge, Utah is blessed with a populace found to be among the nation’s most college-educated. More than 90 percent of Utah’s adult population has attended at least one semester of college—the U.S. average is 54.5 percent. Add to all of that a tech-savvy workforce with a renowned work ethic, with a large percentage of adults versed in foreign languages, and it’s no surprise that major multinational companies such as Adobe, Procter and Gamble, Disney, Goldman Sachs, Overstock.com, Litehouse Foods, eBay, and even the Royal Bank of Scotland, have chosen to expand in Utah in the past few years.

Those successes are no accident or simply a convergence of fortunate circumstances. Governor Herbert and a great supporting cast of business leaders and state and local officials have laid a foundation for Utah’s economic prosperity. That growth is propelling the state out of the economic downturn and will continue to undergird an advancing state economy for decades to come.

“My father was a building contractor,” the Governor told the Utah Legislature during his 2011 State of the State address. “When my father was building homes, he always made certain the foundation was strong, the walls were sturdy, and the roof never leaked. We are tasked by the citizens, the people who hired us to do the job, to make certain the ‘house’ we call Utah is solid and strong.”

The Governor’s four cornerstones for that foundation—education, energy development, job creation and self-determination—are all keys to Utah’s future. They each have a part to play in helping companies working and expanding in the state to enjoy continued success as well.

 

Education

“You cannot have long-term, sustainable economic growth if you do not have a well-educated workforce,” says Herbert. “Businesses simply cannot expand in the state if the knowledge and skills they need are not found in our labor force. A top-tier system of education is essential if we’re going to continue to recruit top-tier companies to Utah.”      The interdependence of education and business is a major reason why Governor Herbert created the Education Excellence Commission. The Commission, which he chairs, includes business, education, and government leaders and experts from across the state. “I’ve been to every minute of every meeting since day one, and all sides are working together in an unprecedented partnership, which is going to prove valuable for generations to come as we raise the bar for education in this state.”

The Governor’s goal: 66 percent of Utahns, ages 20–64, will have a postsecondary degree or professional certification by the year 2020. That goal aligns, not coincidentally, with research showing that nearly two-thirds of jobs in Utah will require a degree or certification by 2020. While many blue-ribbon commissions have been empanelled over the years only to announce an ambitious goal with no real plan to reach it, the Education Excellence Commission has an eight-point action plan, complete with interim goals and performance metrics. “The Education Excellence Commission is about achieving results and keeping us on the path toward our ultimate 66 percent goal. It wasn’t created just so I could have a press conference and issue a glossy report,” said Herbert. His program includes initiatives stressing real-world education in the areas of science, engineering, and math—skills which have and will become increasing valuable in the 21st century global marketplace.

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