Economic Benefits to Utah

Utah's Secret Economic Weapon

In 2012, during one of the worst recessions in US history, NPR did a story on job growth in Utah. They focused on the movement of high tech industry to Utah and cited several reasons for this phenomenon. On the list? "Utah has the highest percentage of foreign language speakers in the country," says Scott Murray, eBay Vice President for Operations in Utah.1 The 2014 Utah Economic Outlook Report agrees with NPR, reporting that the "Information" job category shows the greatest percentage growth in Utah industry from 2013 to 2014.2

While importing big business to Utah gains momentum, Utah entrepreneurs are equally attracted to exporting Utah products and services across international borders. Again, the 2014 Utah Economic Outlook Report2 cites a 9% increase in Utah exports from 2013-2014, the highest percentage of economic growth reported in its category. In "Utah Rankings and Comparisons"3 published by the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, Utah's economic growth is ranked in the top ten in the nation on several indicators, significantly number six in Export and Manufacturing Services, and ranked 12th in the nation overall for economic development by the Kaufmann Foundation.

What gives Utah this edge? Listed as a significant factor: Utah's Language Skills, which is discussed in Section 6 of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah's B & E profile.4 Highlights of this section include:

  • Utah's workforce has a rare and unique skill set that no other state in the country can boast – Utah has an unmatched number of bilingual residents of all ages.
  • 33% of working Utahans speak a foreign language. Many businesses in Utah utilize this unique quality and implement workers’ skills to further their business capabilities and relationships with their clients.
  • Collectively, Utah residents speak 90% of the world’s written languages.
  • 60% of all public school students study a world language.
  • The National Security Agency (NSA) selected Utah for its language analyst offices. The NSA commented that Utah’s famous facility with languages was a big factor in its site selection process.

Growing Utah's Global Workforce

Representative Tim Cosgrove of the Utah House of Representatives remarks in the Utah Dual Language Immersion video, "We have to have that one edge that makes us stand out more so than anybody else and Utah has that with the dual immersion program."5 Other Utah leaders in business and government agree. In the same video, Utah Governor Gary Herbert says, "These immersion programs are adding to Utah's appeal to the business community," and Senator Howard Stephenson, "This is a real leg up in economic development (for Utah) that can have a population that can be fluent in speaking a multiplicity of foreign languages."5

Utah's dual language immersion students are quickly moving toward the global Utah workforce these leaders predict. In 2014 Utah's dual language immersion (DLI) programs educate nearly 30,000 students. By 2019 the first contingency of several hundred students from Utah's Spanish DLI programs will graduate high school, by 2021 graduates from the Spanish DLI programs will be joined by several thousand French and Chinese DLI graduates, and by 2023 these will be joined by several thousand more that include Portuguese and German DLI graduates, all with advanced-level (near native) proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing.

In elementary school these students are already showing skills, in addition to a second language, which are necessary to be successful in a global workforce. Data collected by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) statewide on the content areas of math, language arts, and science report that Utah's DLI students are testing on par with their non-immersion peers; in most districts the immersion students outscore their non-immersion peers.6 "They will go on and do double majors, or majors and minors. They will go into engineering, business, law, medicine, and politics," says Gregg Roberts, World Language Specialist at the USOE. "This is the future of Utah. There is no program that is tied greater to the future of economic development in Utah than the dual language immersion program."6

1 Steve Henn, On Utah's 'Silicon Slopes,' Tech Jobs Get A Lift, 2012 http://www.npr.org/2012/03/12/148252561/on-utahs-silicon-slopes-tech-jobs-get-a-lift

2 2014 Utah Economic Outlook Report, http://gomb.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2014/01/2014UtahEconomicOutlook.pdf

3 Rankings and Comparisons, Economic Development Corporation of Utah, 2013 http://www.edcutah.org/

4 Utah's Language Skills, Economic Development Corporation of Utah, 2013

5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTG0YFU8vWA

6 http://www.utahdli.org/data.html