‘Startup capital of the world’: One Utah Summit in Cedar City focuses on entrepreneurism, leadership

CEDAR CITY — The One Utah Summit attracted hundreds of people to Cedar City last week, including government and business leaders from around the state.

First Lady Abby Cox and Gov. Spencer Cox visit with former NFL quarterback Steve Young during One Utah Summit, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 4, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The conference was staged Oct. 3-4 on the Southern Utah University campus. The first day focused on building communities, while the second day focused on leadership.

“Leadership Day was an especially big hit,” said Kate Hall, executive assistant for SUU’s regional services department and a member of the Summit team. “We invited approximately 100 small rural business leaders from around the state to attend for free and learn more on how to grow their business. I heard nothing but great things from this group of attendees.”

Hall said the summit provides an opportunity for government officials, ranging from mayors and county commissioners to state and federal officials, to discuss issues with each other and with their constituents. 

“I personally hope each attendee had at least one moment where they felt seen and heard,” Hall added.

Among the top featured presenters was Donald Miller, author of the best-selling book “Building a StoryBrand.” Miller spoke on how to frame messages so they are more engaging and meaningful to one’s target audience.

“I hope that whatever you’re trying to bring into the world is brought into the world,” Miller said. “But I want to tell you this: What you want to bring into the world will be brought into the world with words. Words build worlds. And if you use the right words, the world that you are envisioning can actually be built.”

Another highlight was the appearance of former BYU and NFL quarterback Steve Young, who sat with Gov. Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox to share lessons he’s learned both on and off the field.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop receives a transformational leader award presented by (L-R) Stephen Lisonbee, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Gov. Spencer Cox during One Utah Summit, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 4, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“There is abundance in competition. There is abundance in conflict,” Young said. “We’ve just got to find it.”

Young also suggested that people rise above cynicism and argumentative finger-pointing.

“How about if we could raise the level of the conversation?” he suggested.  “We’re here on this crazy planet Earth to learn and grow, so let’s get to it. Because we’re not going to learn and grow at the bottom of the hill.”

During a message he shared earlier, Gov. Cox had touted Utah’s status as the No. 1 state to start a business and “the best hope for entrepreneurs.”

“We’re officially declaring Utah the startup capital of the world,” Cox said. “As a state, we’ve already put the building blocks in place. Our educational institutions are truly our next generation of leaders. Our workforce is motivated and highly skilled. Our community consistently lifts each other up.

Entrepreneur James Thelin of Enoch introduces his “MegaLoaf” sourdough bread idea during One Utah Summit, Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 3, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“This isn’t just about Utah, it’s about setting a new global standard for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Along those lines, eight entrepreneurs took the main stage on Oct. 3 to compete in the State Bank Business Challenge finals, with each entrant having a few minutes to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges.

Enoch resident James Thelin was one of the top overall winners for his sourdough bread business idea, called “MegaLoaf.” Thelin won three separate awards totaling $15,000. Also winning $15,000 was Megan Hutchinson of Sunnyside Up Pastures, which produces grass-fed beef in Sanpete County. SUU student Jett Strand took home $8,000, including a governor’s choice award, for his “Etched Timber” business, which creates laser-carved wooden replicas of diplomas and other official documents.

The competition’s eight finalists, who’d been chosen from an initial field of 33 the night before, collectively ended up with over $57,000 in prizes.

Stephen Lisonbee, the governor’s Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs, said last week’s event drew an estimated 1,250 attendees from around the state.

The summit featured dozens of speakers, including prominent business leaders and government officials. To see the full list of presenters along with short bios on each, click here

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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