When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, Utah’s tech companies’ best friend is the state’s outdoor recreation and easy access to the wilderness and public lands of the cities of Utah.
It’s more important than career advancement, salary, cost of living – even more than family.
That’s according to a survey of tech workers conducted by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, reinforcing the growing economic importance of Utah’s natural landscapes. Released this week, the survey found that nearly 80% of those polled said outdoor recreation was a big factor in settling in Utah. The numbers were even bigger for tech workers who returned to Utah.
Some of the results amazed Utah Governor Spencer Cox, although he was not surprised by the overall findings of the investigation.
âThere is another number that really stood out to me,â Cox told reporters during a panel Tuesday, âand that’s 85% of tech workers who chose to stay in Utah despite a higher pay offer elsewhere, said outdoor recreation was the reason they chose to stay here, so you can’t pay people enough to leave once they get here and they have the opportunity to experience what we are experiencing.
But the governor and other panelists, including Speaker of the House Brad Wilson and Representative Doug Owens, warned that Utah risks losing that competitive advantage due to extreme overcrowding at established destinations, such as national parks ” Mighty 5 âand Little Cottonwood Canyon. , and a dearth of facilities in countless other destinations on public lands.
“President Wilson has really led the charge of investing in infrastructure for our public lands and for our public spaces, for our state parks, making sure that we don’t like these areas to death, that we have resources as people come to experience and enjoy it and as we expand those recreational opportunities, âCox said, referring to the $ 85 million the legislature has authorized for recreation.
âWe have some amazing places in Utah that anywhere else would be national parks, but we’re just spoiled for the riches,â he continued. “And a lot of them don’t have parking spaces and don’t have toilets.”
Last fall, 254 technical workers representing 141 companies responded to the Gardner survey, which was commissioned by Utah Outdoor Partners, a nonprofit that promotes the economic value of outdoor recreation.
âIt’s beautiful,â said one respondent. “Nothing beats coming home with a view of the mountains, no matter how bad my day is, the majesty of my natural surroundings makes me feel blessed that I have chosen to move here.”
A follow-up study by Gardner, published in 2018, found that among tech executives who set up their businesses in Utah, recreational access to public lands in Utah was by far the most important factor in their success. decision, ahead of the state’s business-friendly tax structure and regulation. environment.
Technology now accounts for 18% of Utah’s economy, according to Gardner director Natalie Gochnour, associate dean of the David Eccles School of Business in the United States. Outdoor recreation, especially hiking, mountain biking and skiing, is an important part of the way of life for those who work in this industry, she said.
“Utah’s tech sector is the state’s fastest growing industry while providing well-paying jobs that often encourage a healthy work-life balance,” the 28-page report said. âUtah’s easy access to the wilderness provides ample opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation and is therefore used as a recruiting tool to promote Utah as a place where a work-life balance is essential. accessible, pleasant and impressive. â
The outdoor lifestyle that Utah’s landscapes make possible is one of the main reasons Utah has been the fastest growing state in the country. Cox noted that Utah is no longer in the top 10 for immigration, in large part due to a housing crisis.
âBut we’re No. 1 in the country for people who don’t go, for people who stay,â Cox said. âWe have the lowest percentage of emigration of any state in the country. It happens because people like it here. They love what we have and of course outdoor recreation and public lands are so important. “
Other high-tech states, like California and Colorado, are of course home to some of the most attractive coastal, desert, and mountainous landscapes in the country, but accessing these areas from the Bay Area or Denver can be frustrating.
With traffic jams clogging Utah’s favorite destinations on peak days, reaching ski areas or the Red Rock Desert from Salt Lake City is still relatively easy most of the time. There is always reason to fear for the future of the Utah outdoor experience when you have to wait eight hours to enter Bryce Canyon National Park or get stuck in traffic to reach the ski area. ‘Alta, said Owens, D-Millcreek, co-founder of Utah. Outdoor partners.
âThe Utah Tourism Board used to put a billboard between Denver and Vail, and they told drivers, if you were in Utah, you would ski already,â Owens said. âWe risk seeing other states put up a sign like this in our state. If you’re going up a Little Cottonwood Canyon on a powder day, you’re in trouble. You could be in traffic for a long time.
To remedy this impasse, the Utah Department of Transportation is currently considering whether to install a huge gondola or provide “improved” bus service by widening the road to the canyon.
Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the state needs to step up investment in outdoor opportunities, which he called “assets.” The Utah native described his feelings for the Utah outdoors as “nostalgic,” given the increasing pressure on his favorite places.
âIt is incumbent on us, the leaders of the state, to protect and preserve these assets,â said Wilson, who confessed to mountain biking in Cedar City on family trips to the Utah Shakespeare Festival. (He also confessed to seeing and even enjoying the plays.)
No, Wilson will not be joining the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the outspoken conservation group that often disagrees with state political leaders over protection designations on public lands. When speaking of protection and preservation, Wilson promotes the expansion of the âinfrastructureâ necessary for people to enjoy these landscapes sustainably.
âWe have to have a plan,â Wilson said, âa strategy as a state to protect, preserve and create more leisure opportunities and assets – not for tourists although we like to have them here – but my take and my paradigm have been this is 100% on building and protecting these assets for the Utahns who live here, so we have a place to play and recreate.