Utah 'economic dynamism' No. 1

State's economy 12th overall in national index

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 28 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

Ever thought you were living in a state that is an economic dynamo?

A report released Tuesday says you are, and, what's more, it's the hardest-charging dynamo in the country.

While Utah had divergent results in various categories in the 2007 State New Economy Index, it finished tops among all states for "economic dynamism."

The report, released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and available at www.kauffman.org/neweconomy, gauges "the degree to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, information technology-driven and innovation-based."

"When you look at the report, I see a lot of things we're doing really well," said Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "When it comes to dynamism, we're No. 1. That's a very important piece of economic development. It shows that many of our key initiatives are doing very well. It shows the entrepreneurial spirit in the state and how important those particular aspects are for our economy."

The report's economic dynamism rankings were based on jobs in fast-growing "gazelle" firms (those with annual sales revenue growing 20 percent or more for four straight years), the degree of job churning, the number of Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Inc. 500 firms, the number and value of companies' initial public offerings, the number of entrepreneurs starting new businesses and the number of individual inventor patents issued.

Those dynamism elements are "exactly what we do well in the state of Utah," Perry said. "As we go around looking for business to grow here and to relocate, we always talk about that particular aspect. This is the first time we've seen it in print, though, and it's very satisfying to see that that's the case."

In overall rankings, Utah was 12th — not quite as strong as in 1999, when it was sixth but up from 2002's placement of 16th. The report noted that it used different indicators and methodologies for each report, so the total scores are not necessarily compatible and a state's movement does not necessarily reflect changes in its economy.

Richard Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Technology Council, said the report was "good news for Utah and Utah's high-growth companies." Utah's rankings were "impressive," especially its top-five rankings in several categories.

"With a governor who is tech-savvy and has put an emphasis on collaboration, Utah's innovative and entrepreneurial economy is thriving," Nelson said.

He said the dynamism ranking is not surprising when the underlying components are considered. "We've long known that the Inc. 500 high-growth companies have underscored Utah's success," he said. "In fact, the Inc. 500 highlighted Utah as the epicenter of high-growth companies just three years ago."

The "dynamism" ranking was among five core categories that incorporated several indicators. Others were "knowledge jobs," where Utah was 15th; digital economy, 18th; innovation capacity, 18th; and globalization, 32nd.

Perry said Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has been talking about globalization as a need to be filled in Utah.

"We've got to start tapping into the global economy and take our business more to those environments," he said, noting trade missions, the establishment of an international trade office and world trade center developments among the initiatives. "That one key area shows the gap we've been trying fill the past couple of months. That's one area where we can really improve."

Among the 26 indicators from various sources used for the index score, Utah's top 10 rankings included second for e-government and inventor patents; third for job churning, online population and Internet domain names; fourth for fastest-growing firms; fifth for venture capital; and 10th for high-tech jobs and high-wage traded services.

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