Bieter was followed by Don Dietrich, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce. After Mayor Bieter had spoken of the "doorbelling" he does--visiting local businesses and learning about their needs, hopes, plans and gripes--Dietrich noted that he did the same, though he then explained that doesn't make house calls (businesses have to come see him in his office). Dietrich seemed defensive: at least four different times, he assured the audience that Idaho government and Gov. Otter are listening to them, seemingly aware that many in the room had long ago concluded just the opposite.
Dietrich was followed by Brian Cummings, Executive Director of the Technology Commercialization Office at University of Utah. Cummings rattled off an extraordinary track record of success at attracting private and public research dollars, facilitating tech commercialization (he rejects the term "tech transfer"), providing services to start-ups, growing technology clusters, and increasing the number of start-ups resulting from partnerships with the university. By many measures, Utah seems to be doing this better than most places in the country. A few key indicators:
- Commercial sponsored research (when companies pay the university to do research) went from $16.5M in 2006 to $38.2M in 2008.
- New inventors went from 10 in 2004 to 70 in 2007.
- Number of start-ups went from 3 in 2004 to 24 in 2008 (the national average is 2.8 companies per university).
- 4 new angel funds have emerged in Salt Lake City in the last two years.
As a legislator, I will make the case to my colleagues that these sorts of investments produce real returns and are imperative if we are to remain competitive with other states and countries around the world that are attempting to lure the very same innovators and entrepreneurs. Utah's example offers much for our universities and Legislature to learn and emulate.