Utah is an attractive state for new businesses, but its resources of an educated and skilled labor force and a good business climate must be preserved, Davis County political and economic leaders were told Tuesday.
Harris H. Simmons, president and chief executive officer of Zions Bancorp., listed four imperatives for continuing econcomic growth: a good public education system, protection of cultural and social resources, encouragement of family and community values and less regulation of the business community.Simmons was guest speaker at the county's annual appreciation luncheon for business leaders, held in conjunction with Economic Development Week in the state. The luncheon was at the Officer's Club at Hill Air Force Base.
A Kaysville native, Simmons said he found out just how good the public schools in the county were when he was thrust into the competitive atmosphere of the Harvard Business School, working on a master's degree.
That emphasis on eduction should continue, Simmons said, listing the maintenance and improvement of public education in the state as the most important of his four imperatives.
"We need to figure out how to put less money into bricks and mortar and more money into teachers and curriculum," Simmons said, acknowledging the state has a unique problem in education funding with its large families.
Another unique facet of Utah that out-of-state businesses find attractive is its cultural and artistic community, which, combined with its recreation opportunities, provide for a higher quality of life, Simmons said.
"We need to jealously guard these resources," he said. "Where else but here can one find, on any given school day, members of the symphony and opera in the classroom, interacting with our schoolchildren?" he asked.
Companies are increasingly concerned with providing their workers a quality lifestyle, Simmons said.
A third imperative is maintaining the family and community values that have been traditional in Utah, he said.
Community service and volunteer programs are "a great tribute to the state. And what a great message to deliver to companies looking to locate here," Simmons said.
And, Simmons told the assembled business and political officials, the state and local governments need to be wary of overregulation and overtaxing of the business community.
"We need to be careful that we don't strangle and choke the business community that provides the jobs that allows us to remain competitive," Simmons warned.
Simmons said the banking industry, despite some weak members nationally that are a concern, has never been stronger in Utah. Reserves are up to record levels, non-performing assets are down, and there is money to lend to support business expansion.
More emphasis is being put on helping small businesses expand, Simmons said.