This is the placeBen Hart, deputy director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said his agency is in strong support of the idea and is the likely new home for the effort. That will include hiring a full-time sandbox coordinator that will help businesses connect with appropriate regulatory bodies to establish sandbox stipulations. Under current bill language, those carve-outs would extend for a year and perhaps be eligible for a one-year extension. Hart said the sandbox mechanism, if adopted, would amplify a signal that is already emitting outside Utah borders that, when it comes to trying out new business concepts, this is the place to launch. “It’s putting out a new shingle to the country and international community that Utah is going to have a great addition to an already very, very entrepreneur-friendly business environment,” Hart said. Hart also likes a subcomponent of Maloy’s bill that calls for the creation of a new website that would allow any business owner or entrepreneur who is running into, or anticipating, issues with standing regulations to call for an updated review. Hart said his office tried a beta test of a similar effort a few years ago and had contributors, in just a single year, highlight over 300 code items that appeared irrelevant, misfocused or simply unnecessary under a continually evolving business environment.
Boyack said he sees the sandbox process as a way for government to maintain appropriate regulatory authority and oversight while also allowing a lot more flexibility to open up opportunities to new business to prosper and wonders how many great ideas may have already come and gone due to regulatory frameworks that never allowed the first step of a new idea to take place.
“Our society, I think it’s reasonable to say, has likely been deprived of countless innovations thanks to government regulatory environments,” Boyack said. “Right now, the government is a big fat weight on top of entrepreneurs. This allows government to be more flexible and more supportive and create new venues for business ideas to thrive.”
Change could ‘inspire more innovation’
The sandbox concept could also open new doors for students at the state’s numerous university-level entrepreneurial institutes whose programs are already some of the most vital incubators of new business ideas in the state.
Joseph Woodbury and the other two co-founders of Utah-based peer-to-peer storage solution platform Neighbor launched their company while the ink on their BYU diplomas was still drying.
While the effort did not run into specific regulatory barricades in Utah, Woodbury said he spent hours sifting through hundreds of lines of seemingly antiquated state code trying to make sure what they wanted to do was not going to be hamstrung by regulation.
He said the sandbox program could have saved him some time but more importantly believes the regulatory relief option could turbocharge Utah’s university-driven innovators.
“There aren’t many states that look like us with a U., BYU, Utah Valley, USU and other schools all developing entrepreneurs,” Woodbury said. “We’re a university state and this is a change that will just inspire more innovation.”
Like Boyack, Woodbury also expects that ideas that wouldn’t have been attempted without sandbox protections could now see the light of day.
“All sorts of founders who might be on the edge of launching, who may have been unsure about taking the risk in the current regulatory environment, are just going to do it,” Woodbury said.
To be sure, the proposal could also run head-on into issues with their own unintended consequences, and Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, raised just that issue during the first committee hearing for the proposal. While he voted to support the effort, and it easily passed its committee hearing, he noted that additional modifications may need to be made to ensure regulations, for example aiming to keep Utahns safe from fraudulent business practices, remain in full effect.
On Friday, the bill earned unanimous support from Utah House members and is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.
Forbes’ Millsap also points to the economic timeliness of the sandbox proposal, should it be adopted in the current legislative session.
“Compared to other states, Utah is in a great position to thrive once the pandemic subsides,” Millsap wrote. “Since innovation is the primary driver of economic growth, more sandboxes should lead to a stronger, more dynamic economy that helps Utah’s workers and families.”*By Art Raymond, Desert News*