September 1, 2012

Cover Story

Trailblazers

For more than 10 years, Utah Business has been spotlighting some of the st...Read More

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Article

Trailblazers

Conquering the Present Business World with Lessons from the Past

Candace M. Little

September 1, 2012


For more than 10 years, Utah Business has been spotlighting some of the state’s longest-lasting companies and organizations. Is it getting old yet? Actually, yes. These companies are all getting old—old and experienced, and wrinkled with time, knowledge and challenges overcome. But they are far from old-fashioned.

The 2012 Trailblazers are leaders in their industry, trying new ways to keep up with the changing world and constantly improving their products, services and systems. We call them “trailblazers,” because they were among the first of their kind, laying down a path in Utah for other businesses and organizations to succeed as well. It’s been said that history repeats itself, and in the case of these four organizations, we can only hope it does.

Southern Utah University  Established: 1897
The inception of Southern Utah University took a lot of literal trailblazing. It began as an authorized branch of the state’s teacher training school. But after only two months in operation, the state attorney general threatened to shut it down. He ruled that in order to keep the school in existence, Cedar City must not only construct a building on specific designated land, but the school must also be built within one year. In January of 1898, men, wagons, sleighs and horses blazed through shoulder-deep snow in order to saw logs for the school building. The Branch Normal School building was completed in about one year and has since transformed into a college and now a university.

SUU still has its share of battles to conquer. Michael Benson, president of SUU, says a recent challenge involved finding the necessary funds to complete construction of a science building. Once again, the citizens of Cedar City came through. There were about 10 families who donated roughly $3 million total and made the completion possible.

“We are part of a long chain of people who have given a great deal,” Benson says. “We try very hard to live up to that ideal. Our job is to make the institution better.”

SUU looks to the example of its founders and still exhibits great strength, both as an institution and as professors, staff and students. SUU student Cam Levins is a perfect example. He took first place in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in June, and has times that qualify him for the Summer Olympics.

As an institution, SUU was designated by the State Board of Regents as the state’s premier public liberal arts and sciences university in September 2011, followed by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) making SUU its 27th member institution.

SUU also continues its rich history of giving back to the community and the state. The university’s contributions are diverse, producing 95 percent of Iron County’s teachers and one-third of the state’s high school head football coaches, to annually hosting the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Summer Games.

“The cultural, educational and social epicenter of Southwest Utah, I would argue, is right here in Cedar City at the university,” Benson says. Above all, though, Benson is most proud of SUU’s role in the individual lives of its students. “We are a private school experience at a public school cost,” he says, adding that SUU alumni value their education and time spent at the school.

Browning Established: 1878
Browning, headquartered in Morgan, is a major player in the hunting, shooting and outdoor industry. Along with its worldwide partner factories, Browning designs, manufactures and distributes sporting firearms, hunting and shooting accessories, outdoor clothing, gun security safes, and a variety of other products that hunting and shooting enthusiasts need.

It all started with one man—John M. Browning, an Ogden native, who was granted his first gun design patent in 1879. He is considered to be the world’s greatest firearms designer, earning the title of “Father of Automatic Fire.” The Utah State Legislature even designated January 24, 2011 as John M. Browning Day due to his “lasting contributions to the development of firearm design and the military defense of the United States.”

But Browning CEO Travis Hall says John Browning did something else just as well as he designed guns—he was an accomplished businessman. He established his business with a clear vision and a passion to back it. Today, the company clings to the tagline “The Best There Is.”

“I wish I could take credit for the power of the brand, but that belongs to those who came before,” says Hall. “Our job is to continue that legacy and modernize it.”

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