The state’s largest industry association is undergoing some change.
The Utah Technology Council (UTC), representing 6,000 technology companies in the state, is looking for a new chief executive officer and is undertaking a “rebranding and refreshing,” including honing its message and updating its website.
President and CEO Richard Nelson, who has led the organization for nearly 18 years, has announced he will transition from his current full-time role later this year.
“As CEO for the past nearly 18 years, it’s been my honor to work closely with over 300 stellar trustees and thousands of you, our great members,” Nelson said at the organization’s annual Members Meeting last week. “I’ve loved championing the cause of our world-class CEOs and your teams through our executive forums since 2000.”
Though events and creating a unified voice for the industry, “we continue to reach new milestones and build value for our amazing members,” he said.
Nelson listed “three things that we have fundamentally done together — unifying our voice that has fundamentally changed what’s going on in Utah” during his time at the helm.
One is a change to the state’s early-stage capital structure through the creation of the $121 million Utah Fund of Funds in 2003. Since then, Utah has attracted more than 250 venture and private equity firms to fund companies, making Utah the ninth-most-attractive venture capital state in the country.
The Fund of Funds “has ignited this thriving, growing, hyper-dynamic tech community,” Nelson said.
Another has been a focus on finding skilled talent for Utah tech companies. UTC pushed for the creation of a $40 million STEM Action Center to help boost the number of youngsters learning about science, technology, engineering and math.
The third is the state’s $248 million engineering initiative, which has increased the number of computing and engineering graduates since 2001.
“I greatly appreciate your truly stellar support and confidence,” Nelson told the crowd last week, “and when I look back, I’m awed at what we’ve achieved together.”
Nelson has received many honors during his UTC career, including the Governor’s Medal of Science and Technology, CEO of the Year from Utah’s technology industry, and Distinguished Service Award from the University of Utah College of Engineering. He has been repeatedly named one of the “100 Most Influential People” in Utah by Utah Business magazine.
While with UTC, Nelson has served as the first chairman and CEO of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) from 2007-2009. That organization recently honored Nelson with its first “Distinguished Leader Award” from among the leaders of 53 technology associations that TECNA represents.
Gary Goodrich, UTC chairman, spoke last week about the strength of Utah’s tech industry by noting that in his youth, he hiked at Point of the Mountain and tried to grow crops there, only to find that the only things growing were “weeds and rocks and rattlesnakes.”
“Today, it grows tech companies, tech buildings,” he said. “And they’re flourishing like rabbits, popping up everywhere. It’s all our road people can do to keep up with infrastructure, right?”
He once worked in New York City and later the Bay Area of California before running a company in Utah. His family remained in the Bay Area and he had to weigh whether to keep the company in Utah or move it there.
“It came down to cost, talent and a government that welcomed and helped us grow our tech business. It was hands-down. I had to sell the house and move my family back to Utah,” he said.
Goodrich also heaped praise on Utah legislators for helping the industry grow. “It’s not by accident that we have a jobs-friendly, business-friendly environment here. Our legislators … have worked with us doggedly, tirelessly, to help us keep pro-growth, pro-job, pro-tech policies flourishing in Utah,” he said.
“Try that dealing with ‘Sacra-tomato’ in California. It’s a whole different matter. Red tape, up to here.”