Derek Miller: Working Toward International Economic Prosperity

By Julie Roberts

October 7, 2014

Derek Miller, recently appointed president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, has spent a lot of time studying Utah’s business and economic trends. He previously served as Gov. Gary Herbert’s chief of staff, and before that he worked as the deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. In his new role, he spearheads efforts to strengthen Utah’s status as a premier global business destination.

The governor’s economic vision for our state may be considered lofty by some standards. What do you think?

I was working with the governor when the vision statement was being created, and someone else brought up that very same point. We decided that number one, it is a lofty goal—but you need that. And number two, it’s a realistic goal—there’s no reason why Utah couldn’t achieve that.

The governor has established ambitious goals to increase Utah’s exports each year. How is the World Trade Center helping to fulfill those goals?

There are three very important things we focus on, with the help of our business partners, to help Utah businesses in the international market. First, we hold free trade workshops and seminars. Second, we provide business-to-business consulting services. And third, we provide marketing opportunities for companies.

What did you learn in the governor’s office that helps you in your new role?

One advantage of working in the governor’s office is being able to see the depth and breadth of our state. It’s more than just the Wasatch Front; it’s the whole state. It’s important to achieve economic prosperity for our entire state. In our modern era, there’s no reason why a company can’t be involved in international business, even if it’s located in a rural location in Utah.

What attracted you to international business and economic development?

I’ve always had an interest in international trade. The world is a fascinating place. But specifically, I’m an adherent to the notion that international economic prosperity is the best chance for peace in the world, which connects with the mission of the World Trade Center Utah.

What makes doing business in Utah appealing to businesses in other countries?

First of all, Utah is an incredibly business-friendly environment. We venerate the entrepreneur; it’s part of our pioneer heritage. Second, there’s a low cost of doing business in Utah. We have a low tax burden and a low regulatory burden. And third, Utah has a great workforce. Our employees are highly educated and skilled.

How do you explain Utah to a foreign business leader who is not familiar with our state?

Actually, I’ve discovered that, by and large, people usually know about Utah. I’ve done trade missions with countries such as Israel, Mexico, China, Brazil and Vietnam, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised about how much everyone knows about our state. For those who need to know more, I talk about how Utah is a classic overachiever—it’s part of our state’s culture and DNA. We are willing to outthink and outperform the competition.

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