Utah tech emerges from 2018 Legislature a winner

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature, version 2018, came down mostly supportive of a handful of new legislative efforts aimed at keeping the state’s booming tech and innovation economy prospering.

Perhaps most significant was the passage of SB104, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ann Milner, R-Ogden. The initiative, with $2.5 million in funding, will incentivize students to pursue education paths in one of five yet-to-be-determined but likely tech-centric categories, according to Milner.

After graduation, the program participants would have 25 percent of outstanding tuition costs and fees eliminated for every year they work for a Utah employer.

“It really is trying to align, at the top level, our ability to meet some job needs,” Milner said. “(The program) provides a final kind of piece of that puzzle for meeting our talent needs in the state of Utah.”

Business leaders across the state have been bemoaning the lack of local talent to fill the unmet need in Utah’s quickly expanding technology and innovation sector, a point that was further driven home at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit last month. At that event, Aaron Skonnard, CEO of Pluralsight, a wildly succesful Utah-based online education company, noted there were currently 4,000 unfilled tech jobs in the state.

The program, which could help aid up to 500 students pursuing technology career pathways, is also aimed at keeping more of Utah’s homegrown talent in the state after graduation.

Abby Osborne, vice president for government relations for the Salt Lake Chamber, said the initiative will be a net economic-positive for the state.

“We export way more jobs than we import,” Osborne said. “We’re using our taxpayer dollars to educate them and then we are exporting them. Let’s incentivize them to stay there. What they are going to return to the economy far exceeds what this is going to cost us.”

A pair of bills looking to cultivate more interest from companies developing autonomous vehicle technology met with mixed results this session. While SB56 passed and will pave the way for new commercial truck platooning systems to operate legally on Utah roadways, another effort, HB371, failed to make it over the legislative fence.

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, would have put Utah out in front of the half-dozen or so states that are most aggressively pursuing new autonomous vehicle regulations. Spendlove said the effort could have had a big upside, economically speaking, for the state.

“Essentially, this lays out the framework for encouraging the development of these cars here in Utah,” Spendlove said. “Encouraging these cars to come into our market and anticipating the changes that are not just coming, but are on us.”

Federal legislation efforts were put on pause in early February as the U.S. Senate’s AV Start effort, aimed at providing some nationwide regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles, was put on hold after a handful of senators voiced concerns about safety assurances and other issues. The U.S. House passed its own version of the bill last fall.

Efforts to manage the growth, both in residential population and commercial development, in the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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