As Silicon Slopes speeds up, Park City benefits from Utah’s tech boom
Officials say town’s lifestyle helps industry draw top talent
When Entrepreneur magazine recently named Salt Lake City, with its burgeoning technology industry, as the top challenger in the country to Silicon Valley, Brent Stucker was not surprised.
It’s why he moved his company to Utah.
Stucker is the founder of 3DSIM, a 3-D printing software startup that relocated to Park City in 2015 after struggling to lure qualified employees in Louisville. And while Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden often overshadow Park City in discussion about Utah’s tech boom, he and other business people and officials say the town is taking part in the state’s rise.
“We’re seeing exactly what we hoped to see when we moved here,” Stucker said. “There’s a culture here in Park City that really is attracting top tech talent to little startups that put themselves here.”
As Stucker sees it, the lifestyle is the best offering Park City has going for it. 3DSIM, for instance, was drawn initially to Salt Lake, but the work-life balance and recreation opportunities Park City provides — while still near an international airport — eventually swayed Stucker. Officials from other growing tech companies, such as Skullcandy, which recently built new headquarters in Kimball Junction, and Avi-on, a startup specializing in the internet of things, say they value the same thing about Park City.
And employees who prefer to live in either more urban or more rural areas can still easily commute from the Wasatch Front or surrounding Summit and Wasatch counties. That complete package is rare in the tech world, Stucker said. It has made it easy for 3DSIM to hire top software engineers from all over the country, in addition to drawing from the talent pool local colleges like the University of Utah and Brigham Young University continue to churn out.
“You have this larger culture of engaged tech people who are also very active in biking and skiing and hiking and whatever else they find here,” he said. “You get this self-feeding cycle of people enjoying living and working here.”
Jeff Jones, Summit County’s economic development director, said the numbers back up the notion that Park City is in the midst of a tech wave. According to data from his office, Summit County has added nearly 1,000 tech-related jobs since 2010. They pay an average wage of nearly $80,000 — well above the county average of $48,200 — and account for roughly 10 percent of Summit County’s gross regional product.
The trend seems unlikely to slow. Projections from Jones’ office indicate 730 more of those jobs will be added within the next 10 years. Additionally, he said surveys from the American Planning Association show that baby boomers and millennials view making areas desirable places to live, complete with good schools and alternative transportation options, is the best way to make economic improvements.
Which is to say Park City is seemingly well positioned for the future.
“A great community can attract a lot more jobs as opposed to just going out and chasing companies,” Jones said.
Ted McAleer is another person who believes in the future of Park City’s tech scene. As the managing director of PandoLabs, a nonprofit in Jeremy Ranch devoted to nurturing startups and helping entrepreneurs, he’s had a front-row seat to the growth of companies like AtlasRTX, Mountain Hub (formerly Avatech), Avi-on and 3DSIM.
But he is also adamant that much more can be done to foster the industry in Park City, which loses out on some startups to places along the Wasatch Front where it’s cheaper to operate. McAleer said the topic of economic development should draw more attention from the community but is currently eclipsed by discussion of issues — albeit important — like affordable housing, traffic and energy sustainability.
“We’ve got this tremendous asset,” he said, adding that officials should be more focused on utilizing the Park City Tech Center in Kimball Junction. “If we just promoted it appropriately, we could get a lot more tech companies coming here.”
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