U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, met with Silicon Slopes board members and toured the organization’s headquarters in Lehi during a trip to Utah on Friday.

The Utah senator also met with employees of the Lehi-based software company Podium on Friday morning and later with the Utah State Legislature.

Romney’s meeting at Silicon Slopes was closed to the public, but he told a group of reporters afterward that they discussed “what we can do to encourage the growth of technology in Utah County and throughout the state.”

One way to encourage such growth is to “keep getting great people” to speak at the annual Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, which “sends a pretty strong signal that this is a real center for technology in the country,” Romney said.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the keynote speaker at last month’s summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

“The concept of a state having clusters of economic vitality tends to draw other enterprises of similar interest into that cluster,” said Romney. “And this (Utah County) has become a high tech cluster in the country, which is continuing to cause extraordinary growth and lead to higher job growth and higher wages.”

When asked about the Utah State Legislature, Romney said he was impressed with how well lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert have worked together to “get things done” and praised the Legislature for “taking on some tough issues.”

“Washington has a much harder time actually getting legislation through,” he said.

Romney said he and Utah’s other U.S. senator, Mike Lee, are working on federal legislation that is “Utah-specific,” including funding the Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, removing uranium tailings in Moab and doing “a better job in caring for our public lands and preventing wildfires.”

In terms of legislation that impacts the country as a whole, Romney said he is working on an energy bill that deals with efficiency measures and carbon capture and storage, the process of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and depositing it underground in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Romney also touched on the coronavirus and how its spread has “sort of scrambled everybody’s agenda” in Washington and become a primary focus of U.S. lawmakers and officials.

“I do recognize that there’s a lot of uncertainty associated with COVID-19,” he said, adding that he is concerned “what impact it will have on our supply chain and therefore on businesses.”

“And until there’s some clarity on those things … the market’s going to be pretty choppy,” said Romney.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead a task force put together to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the U.S., according to Politico. Romney praised Trump’s decision and called it the best move for preventing a public health crisis.

“I think he made the right decision to put one person in charge, and that’s the vice president in this case,” Romney said. “That’s the right decision, to cut through the various bureaucratic layers to do what needs to be done.”

Still, Romney said he worried about a potential coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“Frankly, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent the spread of a highly contagious condition,” he said.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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