Gov. Cox says Utah’s tech sector growth is ‘remarkable’ at Silicon Slopes

Utah tech jobs grew by 6.5% in the last year, Cox said at the summit in Vivint Smart Home Arena.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the Silicon Slopes Summit, on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

On his recent trip to Dubai. Gov. Spencer Cox said Friday, a meeting with the country’s minister of artificial intelligence “helped me think about where we are, and about what’s happening in our state and in our nation.”

Speaking at Silicon Slopes 2022, the sixth annual business and tech conference, Cox said the conversation in Dubai made clear “the importance of technology, the importance of sharing knowledge and wisdom in an effort to make the world a better place.”

The sector’s growth in Utah in the past decade, he added, has been “remarkable.”

”We’re so proud,” he told the crowd, “of what you are doing to help grow Utah’s economy and make this a destination for people from all over the world.”

There are now almost 10,000 tech-related businesses in Utah, and jobs in the industry grew by 6.5% in the last year, according to Cox, who paired black sneakers with his heather gray checkered suit and American flag pin.

He also encouraged tech leaders and the workforce to join in the state’s strong culture of charitable giving and volunteerism. “You don’t have to wait for your billion-dollar exit,” he said, “to give back.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attendees walk the halls of Vivint Arena at the Silicon Slopes Summit in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

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The governor concluded his speech with a bipartisan message.

“Our nation is very divided right now. We need builders. I stopped looking at people on the spectrum of the far left or far right,” Cox said. “I started defining people as builders or destroyers.”

Amid raucous applause, Cox concluded, “We need builders now more than ever. I don’t care what your politics is. I don’t care where you come from.”

Other speakers Friday morning included Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard, University of Utah Health CEO Michael Good and Broadcom Inc. Board Chairman Henry Samueli. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young followed Cox.

The two-day summit featured major Utah-based companies and national businesses with offices or staff here, including Adobe, Pure Storage, PluralSight, Vivint, Oracle, Overstock and Goldman Sachs.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attendees enter Vivint Arena for the Silicon Slopes Summit in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

It attracted those in the tech industry from all over the country — like a business owner from South Carolina, who said she was surprised by the level of diversity she saw at the summit, although attendees remained predominately white men.

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On Thursday, Claire Coder — the founder of Aunt Flow — spoke about her company, which strives to ensure everyone has access to period products. She said it was the first time tampons would be discussed on the main stage.

Under a bill passed last year by the Utah Legislature, free period products are being placed in Utah’s K-12 schools. Lawmakers designated funds for the products, but the public-private effort is also funded by private donors and The Policy Project.

For four years running, Utah has been ranked as the worst state for women’s equality. But Coder saluted Utah as a good state for legislation that supports women, pointing to HB162 and its implementation. The company says it is installing 6,300 Aunt Flow dispensers in schools across the state.

Organizations like the Women in Tech Council, Tech-Moms and SheTech were also present at the summit.

[Read more: This Utah town is one of the nation’s top spots for remote workers]

Along with individual company booths, several Utah colleges attended to tout their programs, including Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, Utah State University, Utah Tech University and Ensign College. Although the University of Utah’s health system had a booth, the school didn’t have a booth dedicated to its academic programs.

A large number of the volunteers at the event were college students, looking for opportunities to network with potential employers and gain experience in the field.

While tickets are normally $295, Cotopaxi founder Davis Smith posted on his Linkedin account on Thursday, the company partnered with the summit to extend free access to “new Americans and Utah refugees.”