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Davis Journal

Gathering will promote Utah as ‘The Startup State’

Mar 28, 2024 08:34AM ● By Bryce Wallace
“Startup” will get a spotlight at an upcoming economic gathering.

The first tangible steps in branding Utah as “The Startup State” will be unveiled at the spring version of the One Utah Summit, set for April 11-12 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. The name “Startup State” was first used in the summer of 2021 in an early draft of the state’s 10-year economic strategy, developed by the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
Brad Bonham, named in January 2023 by Gov. Spencer Cox as the state’s first-ever entrepreneur-in-residence, said recently that the Startup State initiative would be “front and center” at the summit.

“If Utah is the best place for startups in the United States, the U.S. is easily the best place to start a company in the entire world,” he said at the March meeting of the GOEO board. “That means Utah would be the best place in the whole world to start a company, so how do we support our entrepreneurs better? How do we do this better?”

Utah already is home to 324,821 small businesses that employ 625,571 people. Small businesses account for 45.5 percent of all Utah employees, and 99.3 percent of Utah businesses are startups or small businesses.

But the state wants to grow those figures. Bonham noted that Cox has been at the forefront of pushing and ensuring that Utah is optimized to help entrepreneurs.

One effort has been to develop a business resource portal to be unveiled at the summit. It will consolidate “the information that someone would need, in one spot,” Bonham said. “And that’s helping everyone [from] sophisticated to unsophisticated.”

Bonham said he conducted about 20 town hall events throughout the state, involving everyone from hair stylists to large-company CEOs, to determine how government could assist businesses. He also met with representatives of the state’s higher education institutions, all of which have some sort of focus on entrepreneurship.

“I can tell you that there are thousands of people actually in our state that are working on their version of entrepreneurial initiatives,” he said.

But what emerged is the existence of 11 websites “as an aspiring entrepreneur you would need to go visit if you had questions about how to start your own business,” Bonham said.

“One of those things that continually pops up, as I went around the state was, ‘How do I start a business?’ Most businesses are not overly sophisticated,” he said. “They don’t have attorneys, they have not raised millions of dollars in venture funds, so these are mom-and-pops, the vast majority of them, that need some help in understanding the nuances of starting a business.” will “really help people down this pathway, guiding them, encouraging them,” he said, by serving as a comprehensive source for materials and tools available for entrepreneurs in Utah to get their businesses established and running.

Additionally, visitors can go to the site, plug in their business idea and get a formalized businesses plan. “That’s not something that’s ever existed before as a government resource,” Bonham said.

Another Startup State push is working on legislative recommendations to streamline the business registration process.

Details about the summit are at It is the spring version of the event; the fall version takes place in Southern Utah. The summit is presented by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the Utah Office of Energy Development, World Trade Center Utah and the Salt Lake Chamber.

The spring summit opens at 5 p.m. April 11 with the Startup State Entrepreneur Challenge, where new entrepreneurs present to a panel to compete for cash. The following morning brings main stage keynote addresses and breakout sessions, followed by the presentation of the Governor’s Awards and more keynotes.

The April 12 morning plenary talks are on the topics of “Economic Opportunities in 2024”; “Education and Industry’s Workforce Alignment”; “What if We Prefer Talking to Machines?”; “Making Utah the Crossroads of the World”; “Ukraine and Utah: Focus on the Future”; “Powering Our Future: The Relationship Between Energy, the Economy and Security”; Magnifying Utah: Connecting People, Places and Stories”; and “Your Leadership Promise.”

Breakout session topics are “Utah’s Entrepreneur Ecosystem”; “A Transformational Investment and Catalytic Life on SLC’s West Side”; “Energy, the Economy and Security”; “Now Hiring: Out-of-the-Bow Ideas to Address Workforce Shortages”; and “AI Horizons: Utah’s Global Influence.”

Afternoon plenary topics are “Disagree Better Initiative: 2024 Priorities,” “Utah’s Economic Future,” “The New Utah: Keepers of the Flame,” “Utah: America’s Film Set,” “Sustaining Corporate Investment for Future Prosperity,” “Utah: The Startup Capital of the World” and “Utah’s Targeted Industries.”