Utah’s Idea Factory [UPH Wire]


October 02, 2015

Mike Lee US Senator for Utah

A few weeks ago, I joined with the Salt Lake Chamber, the Utah Technology Council, and the Utah Manufacturers Association to host the Second Annual Utah Solutions Summit. The theme of this year’s Summit was “Utah’s Idea Factory” – a way to engage in the kind of innovative dialogue that makes Utah a special place, and America an extraordinary success. I am grateful to the many participants and attendees who joined with me to make this an extraordinary event.

“Utah’s Idea Factory” featured a group of local and national leaders talking about the common problems that people experience in their businesses and day to day lives, and how we can come up with solutions—solutions we can apply to legislative reform in Washington.

I was privileged to join with:

  • Former Utah Governor, Mike Leavitt
  • U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse
  • Governor Gary Herbert
  • Rich McKeown, CEO of Leavitt Partners
  • Carol Hollowell, Executive Director of Switchpoint
  • Adam Terry, Founder of Waffle Love food truck

I believe that America is at its best whenever we’re a country of big ideas. This is a quality that has differentiated us from the rest of the world. I believe our nation’s “idea factory” functions best when our businesses drive innovation, and our elected officials serve to help promote bold agendas that empower those who generate innovative ideas. Ultimately, it is those big ideas that create jobs in our economy—jobs that help build the middle class and lift the poor out of poverty.




Senator Mike Lee

“Many people look at Washington today, and see a lot of conflict. To be sure, there is a large amount of conflict. However, I see it as creative disruption—the kind that many deal with in business today—which is finally coming to Washington. And that is a very good thing. If we can harness that creative disruption in a way that will be beneficial, I think that we will see that America’s best days are indeed, yet ahead.”Click here for video of Senator Lee at the Solutions Summit.


Gov. Mike Leavitt

“It’s very difficult to plan for a future you can’t see. What I’ve observed, therefore, is that it is vitally important to create a set of assumptions about the future, in order to plan for it. I’ve seen many organizations, in government and business, unable to adapt to change because they were stuck on a set of assumptions they had established, and did not ever revisit them.” Click here for video of Gov. Mike Leavitt’s address at the Solutions Summit. 


Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE)

“I think one of the greatest parallels between government and business organizations today is the human capital problem—the problem of not thinking about what we are, and what our mission is. We don’t exist as a government, or any organization for that matter, as chiefly a jobs program. We should exist because of the mission we seek to accomplish. Unfortunately, many aspects of our government today are on autopilot—not thinking fundamentally about the people they serve, and how that relates to the greater mission that the institution seeks to accomplish.” Click here for video of Senator Sasse’s remarks at the Solutions Summit. 


Governor Gary Herbert

“What happens out of Washington D.C. is typically a standardized approach—a one-size-fits-all model. The one size fits a few, but it doesn’t fit the many. Here in the west, we have public lands, endangered species, and we have natural resources; the standardized approach doesn’t fit the Utah model of governing.” Click here for video of Gov. Herbert’s comments at the Solutions Summit. 


Rich McKeown

“When I got to the Environmental Protection Agency, it provided a remarkable test laboratory for collaboration and alliance building. As most of you know, the EPA was created by the stroke of President Nixon’s pen—not codified by Congress—as an executive order. While the agency originally operated with an enforcement mentality, it has now functions predominately with a prevention mentality. This is due in large part to successful alliance building and collaboration.” Click here for video of Rich McKeown’s discussion with Boyd Matheson at the Solutions Summit (fast forward to 38:00).


Carol Hollowell

“Switchpoint started as the brainchild of a few people in the community and myself who were tired of seeing the same status quo happening with homelessness. It just didn’t seem to be working. Serving as the volunteer coordinator at the time, I pitched a solution to the City of St. George and said, ‘What can we do?’ I knew the solution needed to be something different, and not just a ‘hot and a cot’. Because as you’ve seen, the status quo with homelessness is not working.” Click here for video of Carol’s remarks at the Solutions Summit (fast forward to 44:30).


Adam Terry

The main challenge we faced while growing was that in Utah County (where we started) there were no laws and regulations that allowed for food trucks to even exist. So when you’re in that awkward space where there isn’t a law that specifically says food trucks can’t happen, or can happen, it made for a lot of discouraging moments. However, it was exciting to work with cities to get laws in place that allowed Waffle Love to grow.” Click here for video of Adam’s discussion with Senator Lee at the Solutions Summit.





This year’s Solutions Summit was a fantastic venue for fostering the kind of discussion that drives policy innovation through collaberation and big ideas. As was highlighted by the many people who participated in the “Idea Factory” this year, collaberation is a key ingredient to the kind of big thinking that brings innovation and institutional reform.

We have to remember that while bringing institutional reform can be a lonely process, it is important that we do begin somewhere. As an example, I like to look at the story of James Madison during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. When James Madison showed up to Philadelphia for the convention that spring, he was the only one there. He waited weeks for others to show up, and didn’t know when, or if, others would arrive. He simply knew that if he didn’t start the discussion, no one likely would. Instead of giving up and going home, he stayed in Philadelphia and served a critical role during one of the most important times in American history. So when it comes to bringing reform, we follow the example of James Madison from time to time. We don’t have to have everyone on board; we just have to have enough.

My hope for the Solutions Summit is that we will walk away with a better view of our own “idea factory”, and that we can engage in the kind of collaberative dialogue as business and civic leaders that will continue to make Utah a special place, and America an extraordinary success.

Washington, D.C. Office
361A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510
Phone: 202.224.5444
Fax: 202.228.1168
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building
125 South State
Suite 4225
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Phone: 801.524.5933
Fax: 801.524.5730
St. George
Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle
Suite 200
St. George, UT 84770
Phone: 435.628.5514
James V. Hansen Federal Building
324 25th Street
Suite 1410
Ogden, Utah 84401
Phone: 801-392-9633
Fax: 801-392-9630

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