Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
USTAR reform bill takes first step in Utah Legislature

It requires more oversight, accountability for agency to create jobs from research.

First Published Feb 19 2014 10:15 am • Last Updated Feb 19 2014 09:57 pm

Senators took a first step Wednesday toward bringing far more accountability and oversight to an under-fire state program designed to turn high-tech university research into new jobs and businesses.

USTAR — the $334 million Utah Science Technology and Research initiative — was slammed in a legislative audit last year for vastly exaggerating the number of jobs it has created and how much money it has brought to Utah’s economy.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, ordered that critical audit, and drafted SB62 to fix many of the problems it identified about lack of oversight, accountability and measurable goals. The Senate Transportation, Public Utilities and Technology Committee passed it unanimously Wednesday, and sent it to the full Senate.

The bill will require what Shiozawa called exhaustive annual reports looking at each USTAR research team and the agency’s overall operation. It will set clearer lines of responsibility and more oversight by its board, and better job-performance goals. It also pushes the agency to become self-funding, and eliminate state subsidies.

"The goal is to have this a self-funding, profitable program," Shiozawa said.

"We’ve taken our whooping," said new USTAR chairman Greg Bell, the former lieutenant governor, about the audit and proposed changes. He said while the bill "is difficult and hard to swallow … we’ve taken the bit in our mouth and are going to perform."

Bell added, "We’re going to run this program under complete due-diligence and complete audit" to ensure it is living up to its original goals. He said newly formed research teams will also be told they will be expected to be self-funding within five years, and should be creating jobs from their research by that time.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said he see the bill as a rebirth for the program. "We had some high expectation created seven years ago" when the program began, he said. "I think those were not realized. I am hoping now with the new expectations that we have established that they will be realized."

Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, praised the bill and said it will maintain and improve USTAR as valuable way to bring more jobs and high-tech research to the state, which he said helps encourage some companies to relocate to Utah.

"It’s really important that we maintain this program. The only way we can maintain this program is by generating credibility with it," he said.

story continues below
story continues below

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.