Editor’s note: Natalie Gochnour, associate dean of the David Eccles School of Business and contributor to Deseret News, traveled with a delegation of business and community leaders on a World Trade Center Utah-led trade mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates united (UAE). Here’s an insider’s look at what happened on the trade mission in the first of a six-part series. She was joined by Governor Spencer Cox and others and here focuses on Utah’s emerging role as a crossroads of the world.
People often describe Utah as the “Crossroads of the West”. It’s an apt moniker considering the state’s central location within the western United States. Utah sits halfway between Canada and Mexico and roughly equidistant from the Pacific Ocean and the Continental Divide. US Interstates 15, 70, 80, and 84 all pass through the state, and Salt Lake City International Airport serves as a major hub for one of the largest airlines in the world.
Even Utah’s past conveys a place of connection; the Lincoln Highway, the Pony Express, and the Transcontinental Railroad all connected people across the Beehive State.
I thought of the crossroads slogan while boarding a flight with a A 64-person delegation led by the governor visited Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The delegation included Governor Spencer Coxlegislative leadership, state heads of government, and business and community representatives.
The World Trade Center Utah, which handles the planning and logistics for Utah trade missions, upped the ante on the Utah slogan. They say their job is to “make Utah the hub of the world, one business at a time.”
It’s an ambitious statement, but I’m hearing it more and more and I’m starting to think it’s sustainable.
Consider Utah’s global reach
Utah exported $18.1 billion in produce last year in countries around the world. This puts Utah’s exports per capita well above the US average.
Each year, approximately 830,000 international visitors come to Utah for our snow, red rock, and other attributes.
Utah’s language skills are well known, as is Utah’s cultural familiarity due to the high percentage of Utahns who have lived outside the country for voluntary and military service.
And, Utah embodies the international olympic spirithaving welcomed the world in 2002 and currently in contention for the future Olympic Winter Games.
That’s a lot of overall weight for a state of 3.4 million people.
Utah governors actively engage in the global economy. They view trade missions as an essential part of their economic development strategy. Every governor since Scott Matheson has made it a priority. Over the years, Governors have visited Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, India, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Netherlands, Korea South, Taiwan, Tonga, UK and more.
These trade missions open doors for Utah businesses by adding diplomacy to the mix. It is much easier and less expensive to get the attention of a potential customer or supplier when the networking event involves a Governor and is hosted at the US Embassy, at the residence of an ambassador or other “state guest” opportunity.
Governor Cox makes his mark on Utah’s international trade
In April 2022, Cox accompanied 19 companies from Utah to Mexico City and Guadalajara. The Utah team responded and took home approximately $32.4 million in trade and supply opportunities. Utah companies like Teton Sports, Reading Horizons and Malouf have benefited. After the trade mission, World Trade Center Utah drafted a 15-page document with notes, action items, and key contacts, including follow-up items with companies involved in transportation, tourism, blockchain, outdoor gear, educational software, and the furniture.
The trade mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates is filled with intrigue. Israel and the United Arab Emirates share important similarities with Utah. All three have vibrant innovation ecosystems, economies that outperform their peers, and faith-based practices. They also illustrate innovation in long-term planning, water, solar, cyber, defense, healthcare and finance.
Utah’s trade ties with both countries are also significant. Utah exported approximately $96.5 million in international exports to Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 2021. This will be Utah’s first official visit to the two countries since the highly acclaimed Abraham Accordswhich were signed by President Donald Trump in September 2020. In what New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman called a “geopolitical earthquake,” the agreements normalized diplomatic and trade relations between Israel, the Emirates Arab States and other countries in the Middle East and the North. Africa.
As we boarded the plane, I noticed six young men with short hair, dressed in khaki pants and white short-sleeved shirts, and wearing black rectangular plastic tags on their breast pockets. They were heading to missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cape Verde. Cape Verde lies about 400 nautical miles west of mainland Africa and is made up of 10 volcanic islands. The juxtaposition of missionaries heading to this remote archipelago and leaders from Utah heading to Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula caught my eye.
Utah truly engages with the world.
Natalie Gochnour is Associate Dean and Director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.