Facebook Twitter

Who deserves the credit for Utah’s booming economy?

Mel S. Lavitt, former chair of the board for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, deserves as much praise as anyone

SHARE Who deserves the credit for Utah’s booming economy?

Downtown Salt Lake City is pictured on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Yet another national media outlet has recognized Utah’s economy as best in the nation. It can be easy to take the “parade of riches” for granted, but the truth is none of this happens by accident. It is the result of lots of hard work by lots of people. Most of those people go unnoticed or even unthanked, but we can’t let that happen to one of the state’s economic leaders over the two decades.

Mel S. Lavitt has been a champion for the state of Utah’s business community, most recently as chairman of the board for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. How a Wall Street financier got from New York to Utah and became one of the state’s strongest advocates is a terrific story, and represents what makes Utah a great place to do business, whether you are eighth-generation pioneer stock or recently relocated.

Mel tells everyone that serving on the GOED board has been one of the most meaningful parts of his life. That says a lot for the person who is credited with creating Wall Street’s modern day IPO roadshow. Mel was an investment banker in equity capital markets for over 50 years, where he played a significant part in the IPOs of such iconic companies as Intel, Compaq and Cray Research.

For the past 30 years, Mel has been a great advocate for Utah tech companies. Through his role on the GOED board, as a senior adviser to the investment bank, Needham & Company, and as a venture capital and angel investor, Mel has been championing Utah companies and getting the word out that Utah is a wonderful place to “live, work, and raise a family.”

Mel’s personal experience coming to Utah shows that one of Utah’s best attributes is our welcoming and collaborative business community. There is a deep-rooted culture of service in Utah, and many ways one can get involved and give back. Mel’s years of service on the board of GOED is just one example.

Mel has likely forgotten more about business and investing than most of us will ever know. He’s been through market ups and downs, and while we are collectively “patting ourselves on the back” for our investing prowess in the market recovery from the 2008 recession, Mel rarely gives himself a kudos for his investing success. There is always a new startup that needs mentoring, another CEO navigating a capital raise, another company looking to expand to Utah who needs an introduction to the various players in the Utah business community.

In an age where the perception is that intelligence has everything to do with how quickly you can move from one app to another, it can be easy to dismiss the older generation. However, there is much to be learned from experience. We have benefited from that personally as Mel mentored us in our careers. His influence is seen across the state writ large and felt in the many individual lives he has touched along the way.

Theresa Foxley is the president and CEO of EDCUtah. Jason Perry is the director of the Hinckley Institue of Politics at the University of Utah. Spencer P. Eccles is a co-founder and managing director of the Cynosure Group. Val Hale is the former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.