Things are definitely buzzing in the Beehive state, thanks in part to Gov. Gary Herbert’s (R-UT) zeal for reform.
“We’re creating jobs at twice the national average,” Herbert said in a phone interview with FreeEnterprise.com. “We went from an unemployment rate of 8.3% to 5.7% since I’ve been in office. We’re seeing more people engaging now in looking for work. They’re getting off the sidelines and getting in the search.”
A lot of those job searchers will likely find jobs creating goods to go overseas. According to the U.S. Chamber’s 2012 Enterprising States report to be released on June 13 at its annual Jobs Summit, Utah is the second fastest growing export state overall. Exported goods include electronic memory circuits, aircraft parts, vehicle airbag systems, and x-ray equipment and tubes.
Herbert says that a diverse economy is key to growth. “We have robust tourism and travel, but we also have a renewed emphasis on energy, which is another area where the federal government could learn from us,” Herbert says, referencing the administration’s delays on major energy projects. Other sectors doing well include life sciences, medical devices, aerospace and new high tech companies, Herbert says. “Every sector of our economy is growing again, except for government. Government is flat. It’s all good signs of a recovering economy.”
Making government more flat has been a key initiative for Herbert since becoming governor in 2009. Today, Utah has 22,256 government employees, the smallest number of employees since 2000. “We did a top-to-bottom review to optimize services—not just cut jobs—but optimize what we have to efficiently use taxpayers’ dollars.” That review by a 16-member commission, including business and political leaders, resulted in 56 different recommendations on ways to improve the government, which Herbert says Utah is now in the process of implementing.
Among the recommendations was a review of the state’s regulatory environment. In last year’s State of the State address, Herbert called on his cabinet and agencies to review of all of Utah’s business rules and regulations. Over a period of 10 months, Herbert’s administration found that the state had a total of 1,169 regulations. Of those, 48% had a direct impact on businesses, and of those, 368 had no real public purpose, so he eliminated all 368 outdated regulations. “They were somebody’s good idea 20 years ago,” he says. “There were a lot of nonsensical ones.”
One of those “nonsensical” regulations included a requirement that day care facilities could not have a milk dispenser. Instead, they had to have individual milk cartons. “Those are more expensive and harder to open, so for the purpose of ostensibly having more sanitary conditions, it actually wasn’t, so we got rid of it,” Herbert says.
Just as important, according to Herbert, is the fact that he, along with the state legislature, has put in place a mechanism in which the state’s Office of Economic Development is required to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of any regulation created by a new piece of legislation, something that the federal government has resisted thus far, despite calls to do so. “We wish the federal government was as bright as we are here in Utah,” Herbert says.
Herbert will join Govs. Dave Heineman (R-NE), Jack Markell (D-DE) and Scott Walker (R-WI) at the U.S. Chamber’s 2012 Jobs Summit on June 13 in Washington D.C.