LOGAN – GOP candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. brought his gubernatorial campaign to Cache Valley on June 4 to tout his plan to more than double Utah’s economy.
“We’re sitting at 180 billion bucks a year right now,” the former governor told a crowd of about 30 residents at a meet and greet in Merlin Olsen Central Park. “That’s okay – but not for a state that should be producing 500 billion bucks in Gross Domestic Product.”
Huntsman’s plan – dubbed “Utah Unlimited” – calls for the state to emerge from the economic calamity of the COVID-19 pandemic by seizing opportunities in three expanding economic sectors: biotechnology, financial technology and defense technology.
The potential benefits of doubling the size of Utah economy, Huntsman said, is “higher paying jobs, more entrepreneurial activity and successful careers for our children and grandchildren right here in Utah.”
Huntsman previously served as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, then resigned to become ambassador to China during the Obama administration. His campaign claims that Huntsman laid the foundation for more than a decade of unbroken economic growth while serving as governor.
The former governor emphasized that enactment of his “Utah Unlimited” plan would not only benefit the Wasatch Front, but also every corner of the state, including Cache Valley.
“When I look at Cache Valley,” Huntsman said, “with one of the world’s great universities and an environment that most people would consider paradise, I think that residents here should hold onto their hats. This area might be largely undiscovered now, but that won’t last forever …
“Imagine what a new statewide focus on biotechnology will mean to universities like Utah State, the kind of partnerships with businesses they can forge and the kind of corporate spin-offs that will result. That’s potentially a $100 billion a year business and this area will be on the ground-floor of that type of growth.”
Huntsman’s prediction about forthcoming opportunities in the biotechnology field seems right on the money. USU researchers are already participating in the search for a highly sought-after COVID-19 vaccine and medical experts are also advocating that the United States must move away from dependence on pharmaceuticals manufactured in China.
Huntsman also sees Cache Valley as fertile ground for the growth of the financial technology sector.
“Let’s say you’ve got one of the world’s great business schools here – and you do,” Huntsman said with tongue firmly planted in cheek, referring to the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, endowed by his late father. “And you’ve got a population that’s already thinking globally. That’s perfect for the growth of finance technology, which is the most global of all business sectors. I think we’d all love to have a $100 billion a year industry that pays wages 20 percent higher than the national average right here.”
Demographic analysts are predicting that Utah’s population will double by 2050. The current trend of families fleeing high taxes in some states has contributed to those growth estimates. Recent events could also result in families seeking safer environments than large metropolitan areas.
“As governor, you’re always judged on whether the state has enough jobs to go around and enough money to afford the bills … ” Huntsman explained. “That’s why the next governor’s ability to recognize opportunities to expand our economy (to meet the demands of a growing population) and to capitalize on those opportunities is critical right now …
“This may all sound like pie in the sky,” Huntsman told the Cache Valley gathering, “but I’m not going to lie to you, not going to give you any BS, not going to obfuscate. Go look at my record. See where I’ve been, what I’ve done and my track record of success. You may like what you find or not, but that’s who I am.”