As our city grows, we must do more to shape an economy that is diverse, resilient, and more broadly distributes good jobs, opportunity, and security. The tech sector is the fastest-growing and highest-paying industry in the state, accounting for one in seven jobs in 2018 and more than 16 percent of all worker earnings, generating upwards of $2.5 billion in state and local tax money.
Jobs in technology are the jobs of the future, but they are not simply going to materialize here. Utah’s capital city should be the state’s most welcoming to innovation and progress, yet extraordinary opportunities keep slipping through our fingers to the suburbs. Salt Lake City needs a mayor who will create the kind of climate that will attract and support entrepreneurs and businesses that help us meet the needs of our capital city.
We need to grow our city in a way that values diversity and sustainability, and improves the lives of all our residents, so we need to focus on bringing tech businesses into our city that want to be part of the city’s progress. New businesses will expand our city’s tax base, which creates a new opportunity to reinvest these dollars back into the community in meaningful ways that will improve the lives of Salt Lake residents. Sustainable growth means environmental, social, and financial long-term stability that supports the unique needs of the city it relies upon. Sustainable growth includes, among others: digital equity, low-emission and no-emission buildings, and wider access to convenient and affordable public transit and housing.
The University of Utah is graduating our future leaders, yet our city doesn’t have enough high-paying jobs to keep these young minds here. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is a nationally ranked hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Utah and an interdisciplinary division of the David Eccles School of Business. Growing our tech sector will help create the jobs that our community needs to keep our young people here.
As mayor, Erin will nurture a sustainable tech ecosystem in Salt Lake City into reality.
Although other major cities around the country have successfully built their own tech ecosystems, it has not yet been tried in Salt Lake City. Through her work on the City Council and with the National League of Cities, Erin has met with other municipal leaders and leaders in the technology sector to gain a better understanding of the economic, academic, political, and cultural elements necessary for growing a vibrant tech sector.
There are at least four areas of great interest to tech leaders in which Salt Lake City already excels:
There are also six areas we already know limit the interest of tech leaders in doing business in Salt Lake:
Building a tech ecosystem and attracting the jobs of the future will require engaging Salt Lake City’s business, academic, scientific, and labor communities. It will take real steps to improve the way Salt Lake City operates, and partnering with business leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world about the opportunities Salt Lake City offers. We can do it, but only if we work together with the leadership of a mayor with the right experience and vision to lead the effort.
As mayor, Erin will:
The office of mayor will convene a task force with leaders from the tech sector, Silicon Slopes, the business community, surrounding universities, labor, and other communities to build strong partnerships and better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with nurturing a sustainable tech ecosystem in the city. The group will work to identify and recommend specific actions to be taken by the city government, universities, and other stakeholders, then monitor and advise progress of implementation.
It’s not enough to offer incredible amenities, we need to share those opportunities with the entrepreneurs and innovative leaders around the country and the world who could be attracted to doing business here in Salt Lake. The effort to create a sustainable tech ecosystem in Salt Lake City will most assuredly require an educational, marketing, and outreach campaign aimed at key business leaders, researchers, and technologists. The substance and scope of that effort will largely be shaped by the efforts of the task force.
Not all jobs are created equal and the city should not pursue every new job creator with the same fervor. As mayor, Erin will recruit and embrace businesses aligned with our city’s commitment to sustainable development, good pay, union labor, and fair treatment of workers. Erin will prioritize businesses that help increase the city’s tax base, allowing the city to increase funding and partnerships for affordable housing, implementation of the Transit Master Plan, and improvements to our air quality.
It is just as important that the businesses that come to our city help create equitable communities. While growth is important for our city’s future, it’s critical that growth is equitable and accessible to residents across our city. Tech is the future of our economy; by getting in at the ground level and creating intentional partnerships we can ensure that growth in our city benefits everyone.
Salt Lake City has a lot to offer the small business and entrepreneurial community, yet we lose a lot of businesses to the suburbs. We need to make it easier for businesses to get started in Salt Lake City by updating and improving the city’s permitting processes and explore grant programs to assist low-income entrepreneurs in business creation. As mayor, Erin will conduct an in-depth review of Salt Lake City’s codes and regulations to ensure that we are making it easy for entrepreneurs — especially innovative researchers from local universities — to grow their business here in our city.
Apprenticeship programs make it possible for young workers to get the kind of on-the-job experience it takes to work and grow in a number of industries. Communities that have a robust culture of apprenticeship have a competitive advantage because they offer a continual pipeline of qualified workers for businesses in their city. We will build that pipeline with educators and tech businesses already in the city, and expand those apprenticeship programs through partnerships as the tech ecosystem begins to form. Erin will ensure that apprenticeship programs promote equity in education and access to opportunities across the city — based not on a student’s geographic location, but on their desire to learn and work in the tech sector. Salt Lake City’s Youth City program and the Salt Lake City School District are excellent opportunities to build collaboration for education and support with the tech industry.
Salt Lake City is on course to double its population in the next 30 years. As we plan for that growth, we have an exciting opportunity to invite the growing tech sector be our partners in growth. The tech industry shares many of the same concerns as our residents: air quality, affordability, transportation, and diversity. Employers in the tech industry tell us their workers want to live and work in a city with the best possible air quality, diversity that is celebrated, convenient and affordable transit options, and housing within a vibrant cultural and business community.
The incredible Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research (POWDER) — a partnership between the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Utah Education and Telehealth Network — is deploying experimental, next-generation 5G wireless networking throughout the city and is a great example of how the tech sector can be an active partner in growing our city. As we expand our tech industry, we have the opportunity to bring innovative businesses to our city that are serious about helping find solutions to our air quality problem, including ways to help their employees use public transit and telecommute.
Erin is committed to expanding Salt Lake City’s public transportation system and making it more geographically equitable so residents in every neighborhood can access all the economic opportunities the city has to offer. Erin will work with UTA to begin the transition to an all-electric fleet as soon as possible to further reduce emissions. Her administration will work to expand discount transit pass opportunities to startup and mid-sized businesses to increase accessibility to the entire Salt Lake City workforce. Currently, only very large employers, like Zions Bank, Goldman Sachs, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, are able to purchase discounted transit passes at bulk-discount rates for their employees.
The long-term needs of our economy require that we fully address digital equity within our city. Access to digital information systems is necessary for full participation in our society, democracy, and the economy. There is simply no excuse for parts of the city to have less opportunity to connect to the internet than others, or for any of our residents to miss out on opportunities to improve their digital literacy. Erin will build on Mayor Biskupski’s digital inclusion plan and incorporate it into the city’s master plan. Erin will work within City Hall and with our future partners in the tech sector to ensure every neighborhood has equal access to the modern digital economy we build in Salt Lake City.