Utah promises economic salvation as the new land of opportunity
Forbes magazine, which placed Utah as #1 in its annual ranking of "Best States for Business," just may have said it best: Companies are getting the message that Utah is the right place for business.
Newsweek heralded Utah as the “Promised Land” in a story titled “How Utah Became the New Economic Zion.”
Newsweek also said, “Defining itself against the liberal left coast is an act of jujitsu. Utah’s biggest potential liability—its conservative, religious populus—becomes an indisputable strength. Utah’s people are, indeed, an employer’s dream. They are healthy, hard workers (pouring in 48 hours a week on average), and exceedingly stable, with the highest birthrates in the nation.”
National Public Radio series "Show Me the Recovery" featured Gov. Herbert noting Utah had lowered its income tax rate from 7 percent to 5 percent, put more emphasis on education and maintained fiscal prudence as a government. “We've been recognized as one of the fiscally fittest states in America, Herbert told NPR. “We still have a AAA bond rating, one of only a handful of states to have that" said Gov. Herbert.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked Salt Lake City as one of its “10 Best Cities For The Next Decade.” It was the first time Salt Lake made the list.
The Wall Street Journal profiled Salt Lake City in a story that focused on the state’s economic incentives, quoting out-of-state employers who praised Utah for its pro-business strategy.
Microsoft, Adobe, Twitter, eBay, and Janicki Industries have all announced plans to expand to Utah. Goldman Sachs, which made Salt Lake City its regional headquarters over a decade ago, announced earlier this year it would hire nearly 400 more employees at salaries averaging $75,000 a year.
Utah Governor, Gary Herbert's intensive effort to promote Utah as a close friend to business has resulted in the high rankings and accolades. While many states are struggling from a recession refusing to loosen its grip, it appears Utah offers economic salvation.
In the past year, the state’s economic team contacted nearly 300 West Coast companies, according to Derek Miller, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Each month a delegation sits down with out-of-state executives as part of a campaign wrapped in low taxes, less government intrusion and educated workers.
“What we tell companies on the West Coast is ‘Go east young man,’” Miller said “If you are looking to expand, this is where you need to look. ”Simply put, when times were good Utah didn’t spend all of its money. Instead, Miller said, the state saved.
Translation – Utah is not raising taxes and is not cutting services. In addition, Utah companies are once again hiring. In October, the state added 16,500 new jobs, a 1.4 percent increase from a year earlier and nearly three times the national job growth rate of 0.5 percent, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
According to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a public/private partnership working with local government to attract and grow companies, 18 companies in fiscal year 2009-2010 made the decision to come to or expand in Utah, adding 4,000 jobs to the state.
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Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of EDCU, said out-of-state businesses comment most about Utah’s quality workforce. “A majority of companies say Utah has been a great experience,” Edwards said. “The workforce is reliable. They’re smart. They show up to work on time and they don’t have hangovers on Monday.”
In November, The Wall Street Journal profiled Salt Lake City in a story that focused on the state’s economic incentives, quoting out-of-state employers who praised Utah for its pro-business strategy.
In December, Gov. Herbert was featured on National Public Radio in a series called “Show Me the Recovery.” In the segment, Herbert noted that Utah had lowered its income tax rate from 7 percent to 5 percent, put more emphasis on education and maintained fiscal prudence as a government.
“We've been recognized as one of the fiscally fittest states in America, Herbert told NPR. “We still have a AAA bond rating, one of only a handful of states to have that.”
Utah’s high-profile rankings have increased the media spotlight. Miller noted that a reporter from Germany saw the Wall Street Journal article and traveled to Utah in search of story explaining why Utah, of all places, was bucking the national trend.
Last summer Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked Salt Lake City as one of its “10 Best Cities For The Next Decade.” It was the first time Salt Lake made the list.
Two years ago, Jenney Nalevanko, who helped produce the Kiplinger story, moved with her fiancé to Salt Lake City from Washington, D.C. She told Salt Lake REALTOR magazine that the state’s recreation opportunities and its economic energy played a big role in deciding to live in Salt Lake City.
“Salt Lake had great appeal to me, since I snowboard and enjoy hiking as well,” Nalevanko said. “We’ve found a great work/life balance here. Utah has a very attractive climate for businesses.”
What about Utah’s misconceptions? Nalevanko said the state continues to suffer from three stereotypes: One, only Mormons live in Utah. Two, you can’t get a beer in the state. And three, the state is covered in snow all the time. Those mistaken impressions were erased for Nalevanko once she moved to Utah.
“Salt Lake City proper is extremely liberal in my opinion,” she said. “Although Salt Lake is considered the epicenter of the Mormon faith, it’s fast becoming the epicenter of the outdoor industry.”
In spite of some ongoing misconceptions, Edwards believes the state is increasingly seen as a place of economic stability. “There’s a lot of chaos going on out there,” Edwards said. “Some are in dire straits.”
Edwards likens Utah to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, which defeated the favored Soviet Union Team in a match that has been described as the “greatest sports achievement of the 20th century.”
“We were the underdogs, the guys who didn’t have any chance,” Edwards said. “We are now up there with Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. Those are the big leagues with amazing economies. To be ranked with those guys for a small place like Utah is just amazing.”