Commentary: Curtis is the right representative for Utah’s tech community

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Congressman John Curtis, Friday March 23, 2018.

Tech in Utah is a big deal. As an entrepreneur in the tech community, I’m biased. But the numbers back it up. Recent news reports show that Utah’s tech industry grew faster than any other state’s last year, and with over 135,000 tech employees state-wide, we make up nearly 9 percent of all Utah workers.

Beyond the statistics, the stories from the world of Utah tech are inspiring. Pluralsight, once a scrappy Utah startup, recently went public to great acclaim. Silicon Slopes, an organization led by local entrepreneurs, drew over 14,000 attendees to its second annual tech summit at the Salt Palace in January. And the inaugural Sego Awards in May recognized nearly 50 of Utah’s top female entrepreneurs — many of whom lead tech companies.

As the startup and tech scene here matures, we need representatives in Congress who understand the importance of Utah’s growing tech sector, as well as the challenges our community is facing. During the seven months that Rep. John Curtis has served so far, he’s proven to be a tireless advocate for Utah tech and startups. In short, he gets it.

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified recently before Congress, he was asked some important and hard questions. The process, however, made it clear that many members of Congress have limited understanding of business and technology. It’s scary to consider that this body is responsible for implementing smart regulations for our industry.

Curtis is different. For starters, he is an entrepreneur himself. Before turning to public service, with his partners he built Action Target into a thriving business with hundreds of employees and tens of millions in annual revenue. And Curtis has already shown the ability to translate that success into the public sphere.

During his tenure as the mayor, Provo was recognized as the most entrepreneurial city in America, the number 3 city the in nation for tech startups, and the best city in the country for career opportunities and fastest job growth. It’s no surprise that Silicon Slopes gave Curtis its first-ever “Community Hero” award in 2017.

Curtis understands that the primary issue the tech industry is facing today is that we need more skilled employees. Over 4,000 tech jobs in Utah are currently unfilled. We have to get more Utah students into computer science, from K-12 through higher education. And we must make Utah an attractive destination for top-notch tech talent across the world. If we can’t get this fixed, we’ll lose good jobs and good companies to other locations.

Through his efforts on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Curtis is pushing to fix our nation’s broken immigration and visa system — especially with respect to the highly-skilled immigration visas many tech employees need. And he is protecting American businesses’ intellectual property, patents and trade secrets from being stolen by foreign competitors.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, he is fighting against heavy-handed regulations that disproportionately burden small businesses and startup companies. And Curtis has been a champion for tech in our rural communities, too. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, he introduced a bill to streamline the process to permit broadband infrastructure projects across Utah’s public lands, providing greater access to high-speed Internet for Utah’s rural schools, hospitals, and startups.

Curtis has proven to be the rare force in Congress who deeply understands technology and how business works. His next election is the Republican primary on June 26, and mail-in ballots were recently sent to voters. If you care about the tech and startup community in Utah, vote for John Curtis to continue representing Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.

Owen Fuller

Owen Fuller is the general manager of Lucidpress.

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