Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to lead the state’s business-promoting World Trade Center

Officials say the ex-ambassador is “uniquely qualified” to promote the Beehive State on a world stage.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, as seen in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Huntsman was named Thursday as chairman of World Trade Center Utah.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman has been elected as board chairman for the state’s World Trade Center, a nonprofit partner of state government charged with promoting Utah’s economy and businesses around the globe.

The prominent politician, former U.S. ambassador and business executive will replace Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, who has served in that position for 12 years, a center spokeswoman said Thursday.

Newly inaugurated Utah Gov. Spencer Cox praised Huntsman, who lost to Cox in June’s Republican gubernatorial primary, for taking the high-profile trade job. Cox said his former rival’s guidance of the agency would benefit residents across Utah and the state’s interests abroad.

“I am grateful that Ambassador Huntsman has once again responded to the call to serve,” he said in a news release. “His service in this important role on ‘Team Utah’ will ensure that our global engagement is a means to an end in accelerating growth for Utah businesses and providing economic opportunity for families and individuals across the state.”

The Salt Lake City-based World Trade Center Utah offers information on global commerce and services to businesses trying to expand their overseas markets. It also coordinates trade missions showcasing the state’s exporters and top industries to potential customers and partners worldwide.

The center has helped Utah firms secure millions of dollars in federal relief loans and other assistance in recent months as they’ve reeled from the coronavirus pandemic. World Trade Center Utah CEO and President Miles Hansen has said that expanding exports will prove a crucial way for the state’s economy to recover from the health crisis.

A one-time U.S. envoy to Singapore and deputy U.S. trade representative, the 60-year-old Huntsman served as Utah governor from 2005 to 2009 before being chosen as then-President Barack Obama’s U.S. ambassador to China until 2011. He then served as U.S ambassador to Russia under former President Donald Trump.

The moderate Republican’s hotly contested election bid against Cox to win another term as governor was unsuccessful.

In addition to international experience gained as a top executive with his family’s Huntsman Corp., a worldwide producer of chemicals headquartered in Texas, Huntsman has served in several U.S. trade positions and on the boards of Ford Motor Co., Chevron, Caterpillar and other big corporations with global reach.

Anderson called Huntsman “uniquely qualified,” noting his leading role, along with officials at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in creating World Trade Center Utah in 2006 to lift exports and lure foreign investments.

“We are fortunate,” Anderson said in the release, “for his willingness to lead our efforts to make Utah the ‘crossroads of the world.’ ”

The center became an official member of the New York-based nonprofit World Trade Centers Association in April 2007.

Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, chairman of the nonprofit Salt Lake Tribune’s board of directors. Scott Anderson is a member of The Tribune’s editorial board.