By: Adam Wooten Issue: Rebuilding Our Infrastructure Section: Government
Connecting International Business at the Crossroads of the West
The California State Legislature is the greatest economic developer Utah could ever hope for,” quips Lew Cramer, founding president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah). As California’s government increases taxes and regulations, companies in Silicon Valley and the rest of the Golden State are increasingly looking to move to the business-friendly Silicon Slopes of Utah.
Ask Cramer about what the WTC Utah does and he will list the many virtues of Utah’s business-friendly economic policies in regulation, taxes and education. The state has recently won many accolades in this area, including Best State for Business (Forbes, 2010), #1 for Best Business Climate (Business Facilities, 2011) and #2 Pro-Business State (Pollina Corporate, 2010).
Press him for more specifics about what his WTC Utah team does, and he will highlight successful corporations that excel in worldwide markets because of the advantages they gain operating from within Utah. For example, IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture between Intel and Micron Technology, chose to base its manufacturing in Lehi, Utah. In five years, the company’s flash memory market share has risen from zero to 15 percent, making its exports the majority of Utah’s nearly $2 billion in computer and electronics exports.
“Utah is the only state to double exports in the last five years, and we’ll double them again in the next five,” says Cramer.
After listening for only a few minutes, one can see Cramer is also showing–not just telling–exactly what the WTC Utah does. Some of the organization’s principal roles include increasing the world’s awareness of the Utah business community and connecting local businesses to private and public international and local resources for international business development. Cramer’s cheerleading for Utah industry recently helped the state win a widely coveted role with the World Bank. Elizabeth Goryunova, executive vice president and chief operating officer for WTC Utah and director of international relations for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, is now also one of the nation’s six private sector liaison officers to the World Bank Group. This means the WTC Utah has insiders’ knowledge to connect local companies with procurement opportunities through the World Bank and other international financial institutions.
“The World Trade Center Utah is uniquely positioned to bring together many international organizations,” explains Cramer. “We are a catalyst for international trade, often introducing businesses to resources like the Gold Key Matching Service offered by the U.S. Commercial Service.” This service uses a vast network to introduce U.S. companies to potential business partners in other countries. During Utah’s recent trade mission to China, the WTC Utah helped facilitate many of those Gold Key introductions to local companies.
For the state’s same trade mission to China, Utah’s governor Gary Herbert wanted to bring some gifts. Cramer, who has formerly taught international marketing at Georgetown University and directed the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service, is savvy about international etiquette and became personally involved. He facilitated a connection with Greg Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and a member of WTC Utah’s board of directors, who generously contributed several autographed basketballs. As Cramer had anticipated, the gifts were a big hit thanks to the rapidly increasing popularity of basketball in China.
“We are a small organization in a small state,” he said after meeting with the entire organization in a small 15 square-foot conference room. “Therefore, we must make the most of our assets and communicate, collaborate, and cooperate. However, we are nimble, quicker to respond to opportunities. There is no bureaucracy here!”
This cooperative spirit means that others are sometimes credited for the help provided by Cramer and his staff. As long as it means Utah businesses and exports are growing, Cramer has no objections. “In fact, sometimes companies don’t want us to communicate their successes at all. One businessman, for example, will return thanking us for helping to guide him to excellent business opportunities in Japan. However, he will half-seriously joke, ‘Please tell everyone that business in Japan is terrible so that my competition does not join me.’”
Business is good for both sides in international trade, and after cheerfully telling about great opportunities overseas, Cramer will quickly return to enumerating the strengths of business in Utah.
“We’re always trying to encourage the government to adopt business-friendly policies in regulation, taxes and education. The state of Utah consistently does so, and that is why so many companies are enticed to move here from California and elsewhere,” says Cramer.
These policies also help foster business that originates and stays in Utah. “For 150 years, Utah’s primary exports-minerals-have come from the mines in our western hills. Now, a close second are the high tech exports that come from the minds in our eastern hills,” continues Cramer, referring to the respected schools like Brigham Young University and the University of Utah on the eastern sides of major Utah cities. “Now the University of Utah is launching more tech startups than any other U.S. academic institution, including MIT!”
Cramer notes that the state’s location “at the crossroads of the west” also makes it an enticing location for enterprise. In addition to the rail lines that gave Utah the crossroads name, the state also has an international airport that makes international travel and shipping quite convenient. The state also has thousands of miles of pipelines and is centrally located for trucking, with what the Utah Department of Transportation reports to be the highest percentage of highway truck traffic in the nation. This means Utah-based businesses can get their products to market faster and cheaper than many businesses located elsewhere.
Any venture considering a business opportunity in Utah should visit Cramer, Goryunova and the rest of the WTC Utah staff. It is not their passion that makes the opportunities sound great; it is actually Utah’s many spectacular business opportunities that generate so much enthusiasm.
Adam Wooten is director of language services for the Utah-based translation technology company Lingotek. He also writes a weekly column on international business, language and culture for Deseretnews.com. Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @AdamWooten.