A dozen cranes can be seen towering across the “Silicon Slopes” located just to the south of Salt Lake City, erecting glass office buildings to boost the state’s tech industry. The state and companies would like to see this growth continue. However, industry leaders say that Utah’s image must be improved to make it more appealing.
Tech lobbyists such as Sunny Washington are pushing for more inclusive legislation in the state Capitol. Washington is a member of the advocacy group for the tech industry, also called Silicon Slopes.
“As much as companies try to be active in their marketing, it is possible to be canceled if we have some bizarre law that’s not a good reflection of the state we live in,” Washington says.
She and other lobbyists opposed a bill that failed to pass, which would have prohibited transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports teams. They also backed legislation that would alter the name of Dixie State University, whose name is linked to the Confederacy.
“We need to do plenty of work to complete to create a sense of “Hey, Utah is a great place to bring my family, and they’re going to feel included in the community,'” Washington says.
Kimmy Paluch, 39, moved to Utah from Oakland, Calif., with her husband and two children in 2018. They were running an advisory firm that was focused on helping tech as well as other companies launch new products.
Paluch states that “we were very disappointed by the Silicon Valley bubble.” “One — the technology which was being funded but they were only serving 1percent. And then two because of the deficiency of capital going to underrepresented founders.”
Paluch believes Utah has a chance to be a better place because it is a younger tech-oriented market. It was also personal, as well. Paluch is an Black woman and an immigrant.
When deciding to make the move, she had to wrestle with the information she had about the reputation of Utah. “I recall telling my Bay Area friends that we’re moving to Utah and they’d be like “Why would you move to Utah and what’s the reason?’
She said she was still thrilled to be living in a new political climate however, the cultural differences gave her and her husband pause.
“Will it make me feel like I am part of this state?” Paluch claims she was forced to ask herself. “I wasn’t really afraid for myself…. In the case of my kids, I was a little worried. I was wondering if they would feel welcomed. It’s been a blessing that it’s never been an issue.”
Brad Wilson, Utah House Speaker, along with other prominent Republicans in the state claim they are proud to make Utah an entrepreneur-friendly state. Wilson admits that sometimes this can be contradictory in trying to stop businesses from moving to his home state.
“Utah is distinctive and very special,” he says. “We must protect Utah’s distinctiveness and not be ashamed or afraid of the things that make Utah distinct.”
But she says the opportunities for business that lawmakers like Wilson have created is only valuable if it’s open to everyone. Paluch argues that it’s not if people from outside of the traditional Utah mold aren’t welcome to relocate to Utah.