Commentary: Utah’s tech sector understands importance of the outdoors

John Harrison

The Utah Legislature recently passed House Concurrent Resolution 7, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Gary Herbert. The resolution passed both the House and Senate without a single dissenting vote.

The sponsors of HCR 7, Rep. Robert Spendlove and Sen. Evan Vickers, are making an important point — one that we in the tech sector understand and agree with: Utah’s outdoors are critical to our state’s economy, and their economic value extends far beyond tourism and outdoor recreation. In fact, Utah’s natural assets are a critical underpinning of the burgeoning tech sector, which now provides directly or indirectly 15.2 percent of all jobs in Utah, according to a just-released study from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

According to the study as reported by ​The Salt Lake Tribune​, Utah’s tech and innovation economy is growing twice as fast as the national rate. Key to that amazing growth is our outdoor lifestyle and the unrivaled access to outdoor recreation that we enjoy in Utah. That is certainly underscored by my experience at Lucid Software.

Lucid currently employs 450 people in Utah, and is growing rapidly, expecting to hire hundreds this year. In my role, I oversee the hiring of about 25 engineers every year. I know how important Utah’s outdoors are to a tech business hiring from out-of-state. We compete with giants like Apple and Google for the opportunity to hire engineering talent. When we attend recruiting events around the country, we search the resumes of applicants for interests in skiing, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities we enjoy in Utah. Those interests help us identify people who will be attracted by our outdoor lifestyle, and they give us a big recruiting advantage over companies hiring to other tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, or New York City.

And the story doesn’t end there. When applicants come to Utah for interviews, we take them to destinations like nearby ski resorts or Southern Utah so they can envision for themselves a life where they can make a few ski runs before coming to work, mountain bike on a summer evening, and inspire their kids with a weekend camping trip to the red rocks. People from all over the country see Utah for the first time and really want to share our lifestyle. We have an edge over any other place in the country for combining great work and outdoor opportunity.

HCR 7 highlights these and other benefits Utah’s outdoors provide for business. I appreciate Representative Spendlove, Senator Vickers, and their colleagues in the Utah Legislature for recognizing the far-reaching economic benefits of Utah’s natural assets to the tech sector and other kinds of businesses all over Utah.

John Harrison is a Senior Director of Engineering at Lucid Software.