Forbes Magazine ranks Utah 'the best state for business'

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 23 2011 10:03 a.m. MST

The snow-covered Wasatch Mountains tower over the modern skyline of historic downtown Salt Lake City.

Ray Boren, for the Deseret News

Utah is the best state for business, Forbes Magazine reported Tuesday, illustrating the positive economic outlook and job growth.

Utah's energy costs, which are 31 percent below the national average, and its 5 percent corporate tax rate helped it top neighboring states, Forbes said. Employment grew 0.6 percent on average over the past five years. Forbes measured states on six categories, including costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.

"Being again recognized by Forbes as the country's best state for business and careers is certainly an outstanding honor," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "But it is no accident; it is the result of deliberate efforts to make Utah the most business-friendly state. While accolades are gratifying, the ultimate fruits of our labors are accelerated economic growth for our state and more jobs for Utah's citizens."

The climate has attracted major business including Procter & Gamble, Home Depot and Boeing, all of which announced Utah expansions this year.

Utah has a five-year annual job growth of 2.4 percent and an unemployment rate of 7.0 percent. Utah's unemployment rate is below the 9.1 percent national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Another Forbes listranked Salt Lake as the fifth best city to find technology jobs. Salt Lake saw a 5.2 percent job growth in the past two years. Utah was also voted the sixth best state for finding jobs in general.

"No state can match the consistent performance of Utah," said Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes staff writer, in the article. "It is the only state that ranks among the top 15 states in each of the six main categories we rate the states on."

EA Games, a video game company based in Redwood City, Calif., has an office with more than 150 employees in Salt Lake and is hiring.

Brandon Welch, recruitment manager for EA Games, said he works to hire people for projects like "The Sims," a life-simulation computer game. Since he arrived more than a year ago, the company has brought on around 60 employees, including developers, artists and managers.

"Our average is about 75 percent local talent, and the rest we pull out of state," said Welch, who works with programs at local universities to help their curriculum and graduates. "We've done pretty good with just that local pool. We're really trying to push new grad hires with EA."

Local executives credit the entrepreneurial spirit of Utah as the driving force of its business success.

David Bradford, chief executive officer of HireVue, a company that makes Internet software platforms, said that makes Utah unlike most other places for business.

"I've traveled the globe in my career and I have rarely seen a place that has the love and passion of entrepreneurism that the state of Utah has," Bradford said in a telephone interview. "We love to build, create and attempt to sustain great technology companies. People are driven to succeed in this state."

Bradford has worked as an executive at Novell and Fusion-io.

Early notable tech companies, like Novell and WordPerfect, helped increase Utah's foothold in the technology sector, Bradford said.

"We planted a seed some years ago of technology companies, which have now grown, spread and caused other companies to prosper," Bradford said.

This prosperity also grew the amount of venture capital funds within the state. Epic Ventures, vSpring Capital, Pelion Ventures and other funds make it easier for technology startups to blossom.

The other advantage Utah has over neighboring states is the young talent pool coming from local universities.

"We have a very highly educated populace," Bradford said. "That's a plus to a company that is moving to the state."

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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