Commentary: Utah competes in a global marketplace

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) acknowledges the crowd after the game at Rio Tinto Stadium Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017.

From watching a game at Rio Tinto Stadium to the construction of Stadler Rail’s new expansion in Salt Lake City, Utahns see evidence of “foreign” investments every day, to the extent they hardly seem “foreign” at all. Utah is home to one of the most vibrant economies in America, and part of that success stems from a recognition that global partnerships matter.

The state is home to approximately 500 international employers. Global investment currently supports more than 42,000 jobs in Utah, a 34 percent increase in the past five years alone. These jobs earn nearly 60 percent higher compensation than the state’s average.

OOCL is one of the world’s largest container shipping companies and is also one of Utah’s biggest international employers. Based out of Hong Kong, OOCL established its North American headquarters in Utah in 2013. In addition to employing hundreds of Utahns, the company adds value to the state by actively engaging with the community. Most recently, a representative from OOCL provided expertise to a committee exploring the possibility of establishing an inland port in Utah.

Petzl is another example of a foreign-owned company positively contributing to Utah’s economy. With its U.S. subsidiary in Utah since 1999, Petzl America’s office was originally in Clearfield. As the company continued to grow, it moved to West Valley City, where it built a beautiful new LEED Platinum facility with state-of-the-art technical institute and distribution center. Petzl designs and manufactures tools to help people operate safely in vertical or dark environments. Utah is a prime location for its North American headquarters because of its strong outdoor recreation industry.

Recruiting international firms like OOCL and Petzl to Utah is a way to import jobs and money. As worldwide competition for global investment grows, the U.S. must continue to position itself as the premier location for international firms. With the help of strong leadership and a welcoming business environment, Utah is well positioned to keep attracting global companies to the Beehive State.

One of the ways the state does this is through trade missions, which always include a meeting with potential investors. Gov. Gary Herbert became the first governor to lead a trade mission to the West Bank several years ago. While there, the delegation participated in a networking luncheon with Palestinian business leaders. Interestingly enough, more than half of these business leaders had connections to Utah and a strong interest in investment opportunities.

A recent Israel trade mission showcased Utah as a strong location for business investment and also exhibited how Utahns are working with brilliant minds around the world on groundbreaking research. PEEL Therapeutics, a trade mission participant, is a company developing a cancer-fighting drug utilizing research into the natural cancer fighting protein found in elephants. Joshua Schiffman from the University of Utah combined technologies with Avi Schroeder from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to co-found their startup to produce a drug that may play an important role in treating and preventing cancer in the future.

To remain a sought-out destination for global companies and collaborative research, Utah must continue to be proactive. World Trade Center Utah and its partners fill this role. WTC Utah promotes the state as a destination for job-creating investment. Its efforts include high-level participation at international trade shows, organizing networking events for investors and business leaders on governor-led international trade missions, hosting inbound delegations and outreach to foreign-owned businesses already in the state.

Utah can’t promote international trade all on its own. It is important that federal policies are enacted that encourage global business. In Utah, we are fortunate to have a congressional delegation that supports business-friendly policies. We applaud Sen. Orrin Hatch and the entire Utah congressional delegation for completing the hard work on tax reform, which vastly improves U.S. competitiveness for global investment and the high-quality U.S. jobs it generates.

Foreign direct investment is an important component of Utah’s international business growth strategy. The state wants companies and investors around the world to know Utah is open for business.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune World Trade Center Utah president and CEO Derek Miller believes the North American Free Trade Agreement has helped Utah businesses but supports updates to reflect technological changes since the trade pact first was drafted 25 years ago.

Derek Miller is president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.

Nancy McLernon

Nancy McLernon is president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment.