Earlier this year at the Chamber’s executive board retreat a goal to better engage Utah’s tech sector in community and business issues was set. In response, the Chamber has taken key steps to build on our existing relationships, expand our membership and identify strategic opportunities.

Strategic Alignment: The Chamber’s executive board named Vance Checketts, VP of DellEMC as our Public Policy Chair. Checketts has been heavily engaged with the Chamber through the non-compete negotiations over the past two years, the advancement of critical education legislation and seeing the value of community engagement outside of the tech sector. In addition to these efforts, Checketts also serves on the Utah Technology Council and Silicon Slopes boards, giving him unique insight on opportunities for collaboration between the Chamber and other tech leaders.

Our president and CEO, Lane Beattie had this to say about Checketts engagement:

“Vance is a remarkable talent. He is a true business leader that understands the value of institutions like the Chamber, while also bringing a fresh perspective to our organization. He has been one of our greatest champions from legislative efforts like protecting non-competes, leading the Talent Ready Utah workforce initiative, chairing our Knowledge Capital working group to signing his company, DellEMC, up to be a Clean Air Champion.

His relationships within the tech industry and his standing relationships with elected officials and  economic development partners, make him a known commodity and a true asset to the Chamber’s efforts in this arena. He has already shown a significant level of commitment to his role as Public Policy Chair, in addition to helping us in our ever-ongoing efforts to be an institution that evolves with the businesses we represent.”

Building Partnerships: The Chamber’s executive board advanced a Memorandum of Understanding with Silicon Slopes. The agreement was signed on August 24, 2017 at the state capitol with members of the executive board of both organizations. This is in addition to an existing agreement with the Utah Technology Council that allows the Chamber to work collaboratively and strategically on issues of mutual interest.

In the news:

As the state’s largest and longest-serving business association, the Salt Lake Chamber does not just represent one industry, but all industries in the state – including Utah’s growing tech sector. On the national stage, more and more, when people are talking about tech – place Utah’s Silicon Slopes at the top of the list. Utah now leads the country in technology sector job growth and is the prime location for tech start-ups.

By partnering with Silicon Slopes, we hope to build upon our current and fruitful partnership with the Utah Technology Council – and we’re thrilled about UTC’s selection of John Knotwell as their new president and CEO. The two organizations have proven to be a catalyst to not only build a reputation about our tech ecosystem but to ignite young minds, to encourage collaboration and ultimately grow our economy. It’s important to us as Utah’s “voice of business” to engage with this next generation of emerging business leaders, to apply their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to community challenges, to collaborate across sectors unlocking unique possibilities and keep Utah the best place in the nation to live, work and play. These partnerships are not only critical for the Chamber, or our broader economy, but are essential for the state’s tech industry, as Clint Betts said during the announcement:

“No other chamber in the country has a record of public policy success comparable to the Salt Lake Chamber, as Utah’s business leader. While we have accomplished much on our own – this partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber will amplify our voice on Capitol Hill. To be able to partner with the state’s largest and longest-serving business association will give the tech community a significant role and responsibility to help solve community challenges. As our sector has grown, so must our commitment to being part of the broader business community. Whether it is air quality, transportation, regulation or workforce development – our industry is impacted, and this partnership allows us to help shape the solutions to these issues and many others.

Benchmarking Efforts and Learning Best Practices: Building on these two significant efforts, the Salt Lake Chamber led a small delegation of our executive board leadership, tech association and economic development partners on a visit to another western technology hub. As with many emerging regions, Utah and the Wasatch Front has a flourishing technology sector. This presents a significant opportunity as a new generation of innovative and engaged businesses and business leaders begin to rise in our community. Ensuring this next generation engages with the Chamber is critical to our community’s success. The trip’s purpose was to better understand the Chamber’s role in complimenting, supporting and engaging technology companies as a chamber. This includes exploring the strengths of other regions regarding growing a tech talent and economic base, as well as how their technology companies are engaging to solve local community challenges.

Our economic development partner, EDCUtah, president and CEO, Theresa Foxley joined us on the trip and said this in her weekly Fox Files post:

“Sustained industry engagement is critical in the public policy arena. Technology is changing and disrupting the world around us, but government has not kept up with the pace of innovation. Government will — intentionally or not — hamper progress without regular interaction with industry. However, limited engagement doesn’t work. Industry needs to have strategic, sustained, and proactive communication with all stakeholders to be successful.”

Some key takeaways from the trip for our team:

  1. Utah is headed in the right direction on tech engagement. While we can always do better, our state does have key tech leaders, especially more enterprise driven companies, engaged in policy issues that are not specific to the industry. This is also critical to ensuring our state’s unicorns and mid-market tech companies are vested in the community and not as apt for an acquisition/growth opportunities that would damage our economy. Watch for more news about building on this engagement by targeted efforts to partner with these companies on main issues such as air quality, workforce, transportation and others.
  2. Need more focused attention on our start-up economy. As a 2016 report from the U.S. Chamber aptly identified a significant gap in our tech economy was our support of start-ups. While there are many of the essential pieces for a vibrant start-up ecosystem, from the Lassonde Institute, coworking spaces and the pure entrepreneurial spirit of the state, a more integrated and intentional approach is needed. Look for some collaborative initiatives from our tech partners and the Chamber to come in the months ahead.
  3. Getting ahead of education, transportation, and housing affordability are game-changing opportunities for competitive advantage. Focusing on these fundamentals, means we’re training talent for the knowledge economy, investing smartly in our transportation infrastructure to support economic growth, and finding innovative solutions to address rising housing costs that will pay significant dividends to our future competitiveness as a state. This also brings in another best practice learned from the trip, a more deliberate economic development strategy that addresses these issues, identifies specific metrics and outcomes for our economic development efforts and relies heavily on private sector support. Watch for announcements on all these issues in the months ahead.

Moving forward, the Chamber will be looking for additional strategic opportunities with our partners to engage with our state’s burgeoning tech sector, and every other industry to keep our economy the best in the nation.