Judd Bagley, director of comms at Overstock.com, discusses how a startup culture and low cost of living are big draws for tech guru.When you think of tech cities, ones that stand out are Austin, TX; San Francisco; and Seattle.
However, the Salt Lake City metropolitan area is quickly becoming a hot spot for tech and digital companies. Along with Overstock, Skullcandy, Ancestry.com, and 1-800 Contacts are also based in the area.
Last year, Forbes ranked the city the fourth best in the US for technology jobs. It has experienced a 31% growth in tech employment in the last decade and 7.6% growth for the two-year period ending in 2012.
Technology is big business for the PR scene, thanks largely to the efforts of The University of Utah, which often ranks number one in the nation by the Association of University Technology Managers for starting companies based on university research, beating out such schools as MIT, Columbia, Caltech, and Johns Hopkins.
1. Bagley's favorite places for business meals include Ruth's Chris Steak House and The Happy Sumo Restaurant and Sushi Bar.
2. The Salt Lake City metropolitan area has slightly more than 1 million people, compared to the 3.9 million in Seattle, 4.3 million in San Francisco, and 1.8 million in Austin, TX.
3. Utah's unemployment rate was 4.7% during June 2013, lower than the June 2012 unemployment rate of 5.8%, according to the Department of Workforce Services. The national unemployment rate was 7.6% in June 2013.
4. Utah's nonagricultural employment increased an estimated 2.2%, or 28,200 jobs, between June 2012 and June 2013, according to the Department of Workforce Services. Nationally, employment increased 1.7%.
5. The area is home to the international headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and more than 50% of the city's population is Mormon.
6. In 2009, the state ended a decades-old rule that required bar patrons to fill out an application, pay a fee, and become a member of a private club before entering places serving alcohol.
As tech companies look to be acquired or find investors they need to get the attention of people such as venture capitalists, according to Judd Bagley, director of communications at Overstock.com.
Helping these companies achieve those goals can really benefit a PR pro's career. “You are essentially helping a company start from nothing. If you can help get them the attention they need, you can do PR for anybody,” adds Bagley. “You can cut your teeth starting like this.”
The area's growing tech presence is also attributed to a branding campaign called Silicon Slopes, which was launched in 2007 by Josh James, CEO of Domo, a software-as-a-service venture. The effort markets Utah tech companies and encourages investment and entrepreneurship in the sector, as well as drawing job candidates to the area.
Setting up in Utah is a good deal too, as the state has a right-to-work policy and limits the role of unions, says Bagley. Cost of living is also incredibly low, so while salaries may be half that of a company on the West Coast, the money goes much further in Utah. The median price for homes in the city from April to June 2013 was $156,109, compared to $851,000 in San Francisco for the same period, according to real estate company Trulia.
Another added benefit for tech gurus and software engineers working in Salt Lake City is that companies tend to be much smaller than elsewhere. “That means there are a lot of great opportunities for an individual to have a significant impact in an organization,” explains Bagley.
Outside of work, the region is also known for play. It has one of the most unique climates in the world. “For instance in the spring, you can start your day skiing and then in the afternoon play 18 holes of golf,” says Bagley. “There's just nowhere else you can do that.”
Local PRSA chapter
Greater Salt Lake branch
Bryan Packer, president
The Salt Lake Tribune
90 S. 400 West, Suite 700
Salt Lake City, UT, 84101
Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce
175 E University Blvd.
400 S., Suite 600,
Salt Lake City, UT, 84111