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‘Maybe It Was Utah’ (Editorial)

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Fans of the classic movie comedy “Raising Arizona” will recognize the quote in the headline, and readers of this issue will learn that Arkansas’ commerce secretary, Hugh McDonald, is looking to Utah as a model for what Arkansas could become.

As our Lara Farrar writes, Utah, which has a population similar in size to Arkansas’, “has been able to become one of the top states in the country for entrepreneurs and for high-tech industries, ranging from internet startups and biotech firms to pharmaceuticals, defense contractors and fintech companies.”

Several initiatives — initiatives that Arkansas could replicate — fueled this transformation, among them encouraging research at the state’s universities, promoting the state’s natural resources and outdoor recreation, and enabling entrepreneurial support efforts, such as Utah’s Silicone Slopes. “The whole goal was to bring capital attention or awareness, and to bring talent, and for the state to be recognized as a technology hub,” Clint Betts, Silicon Slopes’ CEO, said. “Our goal was pretty simple: brand the state.”

Kelvyn Cullimore of BioUtah, a life sciences trade association, also recommended that the state have “a good 30-year plan based on where you want to go and the industries you want to attract.”

Having a plan requires long-term thinking and a commitment to Arkansas’ future, a desire by the state’s political, business and civic leaders “to bloom where they’re planted.” And that’s something we’d like to see more of.

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