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Leavitt aims to woo Silicon Valley firms

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Gov. Mike Leavitt was getting down to business Monday on his plan to import bits of Silicon Valley to Utah.

The first item on the agenda is getting locals to buy into the concept.

Leavitt launched his Utah-Silicon Valley Alliance Monday by gathering some 200 local companies, academic and business leaders and economic developers for a brainstorming session at the Larry H. Miller Entrepreneurship Center. A few Silicon Valley people also were to be on hand.

"This meeting is more focused on Utah business people," said Rod Linton, director of the state Office of Technology Development.

The idea, he said, is to put some flesh on the bones of the governor's initiative. Attendees were to break into groups to develop strategies and recommendations in areas such as seed money, telecommunications, legal and banking issues and workforce development.

Leavitt announced in May a plan to accelerate Utah's emergence as a technology center by making the state a "vogue" place to do business.

The governor has made several trips to the Bay area this past few months to meet with high-powered venture capitalists and up-and-coming high-tech firms looking to expand. Initial participants in the alliance include partners in the venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Accel Partners and APV Technologies, attorneys and an investment banker along with Utah businesses such as Novell and state government leaders.

Leavitt will travel to California again in September to host what will amount to a huge schmooze fest at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel. The state intends to invite some 2,000 to 3,000 Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers and investors for a look at what Utah has to offer budding high-tech companies. State economic development officials hope the result will be a "friends of Utah" group they can use to foster business expansion in the state.

"It's a gigantic thing, but it's really something that can lead to a lot of growth and higher paying jobs in Utah," said Rick Mayfield, director of the state Division of Business and Economic Development.

Utah is banking on its quality of life, low cost of living and well-trained labor pool to draw Silicon Valley firms looking to expand or relocate.