Salt Lake among Newsweek's 'Top 10 Places in America Poised for Recovery'

Magazine calls the city a 'New Silicon Valley'

Published: Monday, Nov. 8 2010 10:38 p.m. MST

Adobe employees raise an Adobe flag during an October press conference at the site of the future Adobe Technology Campus in Lehi.

Michael Brandy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — If you wonder where the best state to recover from the nation's economic recession might be, Newsweek magazine believes, "This is the place."

In an article appearing in its current issue, Salt Lake City is among Newsweek's "Top 10 Places in America Poised for Recovery."

According to the magazine, most of the metropolitan areas fall into three basic groups across the country.

They include the "Texaplex" of Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston — an energy hotbed that has become the top destination for job seekers.

Then there are the "New Silicon Valleys" of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Salt Lake City and urban northern Virginia — all of which offer well-paying high-tech jobs and housing prices that are well below those found in California.

The third area are the so-called "Heartland Honeys" of Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and Des Moines, Iowa — which are buoyed by increasing agricultural prices and a movement toward high-end industrial jobs.

According to Newsweek, the Wasatch Front has been bolstered by big names like Adobe, Electronic Arts and Twitter setting up shop in Utah. In addition, the area's short commutes, decent public schools, excellent recreation opportunities and affordable housing are also seen as major advantages over other areas.

Approximately three-quarters of Salt Lake area households can afford a median-priced house, compared to 45 percent in Silicon Valley and about half that in New York City and San Francisco.

The economic advantages of cities like Salt Lake and the other high-tech centers are expected to prove particularly attractive to millennials — the generation born after 1982 — when they begin to look for places to settle as they launch their careers and start families.

Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, attributed the recognition as an "economic Zion" to what he described a "secret sauce" of extensive cooperation between various entities across the state.

He said the willingness to work together for a common goal of attracting business and jobs is something that helped put the Wasatch region in such a relatively favorable economic position.

"It's a matter of momentum … how can we create more jobs?" he asked rhetorically. "This (article) is all about helping us to create momentum."

He said such positive publicity could aid greatly in the state's efforts to bring more jobs and companies to Utah.

While Newsweek paints an especially optimistic picture of the local economic outlook, at least one local analyst is a bit more pragmatic.

"(The article) raises many excellent points, " said John Watkins, economics professor at Westminster College. "Even so, things are not as rosy as the article suggests."

"Unemployment is relatively high (at 7.4 percent), foreclosures are up, and incomes are stagnant or declining," he said.

Still, things are looking better, he noted.

The executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development told the Deseret News that the despite the effects of the historic downturn, the state's efforts to create a business-friendly environment have been paying dividends.

"(We're) focusing on national and international business," Spencer Eccles said. "We're the only state to have 40 percent growth in exports last year … so we're not just looking to bring companies here, we're looking to bring business and activity."

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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