We are so excited to introduce you to our new Deputy Director, Lorena Riffo Jenson! In this role, Lorena will help lead the implementation of the economic, business development, and arts strategies to support Salt Lake City. She will manage initiatives and programs aimed to expand the city’s tax base, maintain stability, and support growth of diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic neighborhood economies, artists, arts organization, and create opportunity for local entrepreneurs.
The job is crucial to achieving sustainable, equitable growth for our City, and we are very grateful that she has joined the team!
Lorena holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Utah, Juris Doctor Degree from Brigham Young University, and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Certificate in Criminology, and minor in French from the University of Utah.
She began her career with the state of Utah in 1993 as a program manager for the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. For three years she served as the governor’s liaison with state and local agencies addressing issues affecting Utah’s Hispanic population. She developed a strategy to help Utah businesses during the 2002 Olympics, and served as Utah’s director of metro business development, expansion, retention, and procurement assistance. Throughout her career Lorena has worked to strategically assist government agencies, nonprofits, and corporations to reach diverse and ethnic communities. More recently, through her company Vox Creative, she ran a campaign that connected and educated marginalized communities regarding COVID-19 protocols and safety measures.
Q&A with Lorena Riffo Jenson
Tell us more about your experiences and how they will help our small businesses bounce back from the effects of COVID-19.
I have owned a small business, myself. That experience will be so helpful to this current position because I’ve been in the shoes of many of our small business owners who really are incredible. They are the backbone of economy and they have been doing great work trying to survive the pandemic and all of its challenges. I just think back to my own experiences surviving the 2008 recession and I had to find creative ways to ensure that we could continue having a company and making sure employees were taken care of. And while it is a very unusual economic downturn, having that experience to draw from will help in the recovery.
More importantly, having a mayor who is pushing us to bring about innovation is key. We want to ensure that all businesses and all residents have access to the success that Utah and Salt Lake City is seeing right now. We have an incredible team and leadership in this department, which will help guide that vision.
What are your plans to help business succeed in Salt Lake City?
It starts with listening to our business leaders.
We’re currently working on a social impact study and looking at everything that may be affecting this economy, ensuring their small businesses have the information they need right now. Are they aware of all loans and grants? Do they need help with tax credits? Do they need help with their workforce and training? This and much more – we are always finding those resources that we can share with our small business community.
Salt Lake City’s Business Advisory Board is a volunteer board made up of entrepreneurs who care about what happens in Salt Lake City’s business community. They advocate for small businesses and provide recommendations and advice to City leaders on ways to improve the business climate, while addressing our challenges with diversity, affordability, and growth. We meet with them monthly and encourage anyone to apply.
And as always, anyone can reach out directly to me for assistance – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do we make sure the economy will benefit everyone?
In this trying time in our country, Utah’s businesses are expanding. Which is great news, but we want to make sure that success is expanded to everyone in our City.
We’re looking at workforce expansion to make sure that we’re addressing the social issues. Are Salt Lake City residents getting the right education to prepare them for these jobs and are they graduating in those fields? Are we providing our residents with the right training that our employers need? We must connect the dots between business, education, and government to ensure success for everyone.
When not at work, Lorena loves to garden, hike, and walk with her dog Alika. She loves spending time with her daughters and says, “They are amazing women making a difference in the world” and adds, “My hero is my mother who has shown me the power of resiliency and the gift of vulnerability.”
Lorena has always been involved and is passionate about helping others, especially when it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion. It’s in her blood and shows up in every action and conversation. Her view, “It is up to us to build better and stronger communities.”