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PARDEW: In my industry, which is in entertainment software and entertainment in general, we are still exporting most of our jobs. Most of the people who graduate in this industry are leaving Utah. There is work to be done to strengthen that sector within the overall economy. But we have at BYU probably one of the top animation programs in the country—it consistently wins Emmys every year. But 80 to 90 percent of those people have to leave the state to find work. So if we were to look at that as an opportunity, there is certainly room to grow in that sector.
KAUFMAN: Coming from the medical device sector, there are a lot of companies in this state that think we have a strong culture, but as soon as you go to Northern California or other hot spots, there’s a lot this state can do to build its medical device manufacturing capabilities at its core.
That being said, I believe that an organization like ours, with the growth trajectory we are going to be on over the next 10 years, is completely sustainable here in this market. If we were to jump today to where we need to be 10 years from now, it can’t and it won’t. With certain types of engineers, we’ve hit a wall and it’s really, really difficult to find those sorts of engineers.
The industry will grow and develop, and we take upon ourselves the responsibility to be a leader in that space and a voice in driving growth within the medical device community here in the state.
How is the tourism industry growing and evolving within Utah County? Are we taking full advantage of all the assets we have here?
RACKER: I’d like to point out the very exciting new upscale outlet malls in Lehi. Thanksgiving Point has always been kind of a cool attraction, but how do you get a bus coming from the national parks or on its way to Yellowstone to stop? Now we are going to have these upscale outlet malls, where a lot of your Asian countries, they love to shop at Coach and all these outlets.
There’s going to be more hotels up there. We really see Thanksgiving Point as a tourism opportunity to get people to overnight in the county, whereas in the past they may have gone up to Salt Lake to Temple Square.
ROBARGE: Part of that is getting in front of them before they get here. You can’t talk to the bus companies. We found this out after pounding the pavement—it’s just like getting on a cruise ship. You book your shore excursions long in advance before you ever get on the cruise ship—you do that through the tour company long before the client ever books the trip.
RACKER: The state just increased the tourism funding from $7 million to $9 million. There’s a lot of those dollars allocated towards international marketing, and we’re trying to get in there with the tour operators and get that word out in advance. And that’s what the legislature, by allocating the ongoing tourism dollars, will help us do. Then we can draw attention here.
BALL: One of our major clients that we took on this year is taking advantage of the Mitt Romney attention—both the positive and negative research that has spiked in internet searches on Utah and Mormonism and local issues. We are translating simultaneously into dozens of languages micro sites for those searches and helping them with the SEO rankings, and it’s a very substantial project.
These are the types of interesting behind the scenes behaviors that are being very well funded to get in front of people’s eyes before they get to the state. It’s a very tangible project we’re working on.
HUNT: One of the other opportunities that gets overlooked—because it’s become so common—are the international citizens that come to our valley for the expos and seminars that some of our local companies sponsor. Tahitian Noni, Nu Skin and the like, they bring thousands and thousands of people from outside the United States into our valley. It would be interesting to know what kind of economic spinoff that creates, because it’s kind of business tourism, in a sense. They are here for a business meeting, but undoubtedly they spend a few extra days and enjoy some of the other things in the area.
SNOWDEN: No one really gets that we are a lakeside community. We should have a Lake Tahoe-like reputation around the world. Because if you go out on Pioneer Crossing and look back toward our mountains, that’s one of the most amazing, spectacular views in the world, and no one knows we have it here. That is a tremendous opportunity to leverage from a tourism perspective and a fine living perspective.
GARFIELD: It’s been interesting how the Asian market has really grown in the last little bit. We had a very large group from Vietnam, and working with interpreters, we were able to sign a large group from China that will be coming in 19 groups over the next little bit. We get Japanese, we get Indonesians and such, but we are also seeing a lot from Europe. So we’re really starting to become more of an international location.