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Opinion: Congress is risking the future of Utah technology companies

Some antitrust legislation under consideration would only hinder the U.S. tech sector and hurt the innovators

Renderings show what Draper is hoping the south end of Salt Lake County might look like in the future.
Renderings show what Draper is hoping the south end of Salt Lake County might look like in the future with the possible development on the current site of the Utah State Prison. Utah’s tech sector continues to grow but could be threatened by federal antitrust legislation.
Draper

Every day I get the opportunity to work with businesses of all sizes that work tirelessly to innovate, grow and provide important products and services to their customers. In one fashion or another, these amazing businesses utilize and often rely on technology tools and services from tech companies in Utah and elsewhere to accomplish their goals and objectives.

The tech industry is the fastest-growing and highest-paying industry in Utah and is only growing in importance to our national security and our economy. Tech accounts for 1 in 7 jobs across our state and generates roughly $20 billion to the state’s economy.

Elected officials must thoughtfully consider measures being debated in Congress that would have serious unintended consequences on Utah’s economy, the technology industry, national security and local businesses.

Some fail to realize the impact our country’s large tech companies have on small businesses. Deeper evaluation of the data shows small businesses have been able to leverage technology developed from larger organizations to their advantage, helping them to continue to compete and break through in a flooded marketplace. A recent study published by the Data Catalyst Institute found that almost 70% of participants reported having their own web store, and 70% also said they participated in a third-party online marketplace to generate sales.

The survey also found that 72% of these small and medium retailers receive almost half of their revenue online.

Ultimately, technology is not a threat but an essential tool to their continued growth. Small businesses have been able to increase their sales and customer base by using low-cost, efficient digital tools and platforms offered by many different companies that compete for small businesses as customers.

Utah’s tech industry is growing at such a high rate that it continues to have issues finding talent to fill the 4,000 positions available. We have an urgent demand to expand cybersecurity and collaborate with tech companies in areas such as cybersecurity, security analytics and artificial intelligence.

As a result of this high demand, Utah Valley University and Utah State University have recently been awarded a $5 million grant from the Utah Legislature that aims to help produce students who will be able to continue developing Utah’s growing tech and security sectors.

Yet, some antitrust legislation being contemplated by Congress would only hinder the U.S. tech sector and could hurt the innovators that power Utah’s tech sector. U.S. policymakers must look to smart policy solutions that strengthen America’s ability to innovate, protect our national security and promote a democratic and open internet.

By focusing on anti-competition bills, congressional leaders are overlooking the more pressing issue: China. A report from the Center for New American Security found “A rising China poses a fundamental challenge to the economic vitality and national security of the United States and its allies and the currency of liberal democratic values around the world. Technology — a key enabler for economic, political and military power — is front and center in this competition.”

These misguided proposals in Congress could put American leadership at risk and put China closer to its goal of becoming the world’s dominant tech leader. As the U.S.-China competition continues, the U.S. intelligence community is taking notice and making a shift and devoting more resources to China. After reviewing the CIA’s priorities, CIA Director William Burns recently announced the establishment of a China Mission Center that will focus more on China as our country’s principal competitor.

In order to support continued innovation and economic growth here in Utah and our country, I encourage our congressional leaders and those in the statehouse to bring leaders in the tech industry to the table to assist in outlining a path forward that will ensure sustained long-term growth in the face of a rising China.

We must not unintentionally harm our strong business climate and put our national security, technology and small businesses at a disadvantage. Our leaders must remain wary of policies that would restrict America’s competitive edge in the global marketplace.

James Greaves is the CEO of Brand Makers headquartered in Spanish Fork.