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A. Scott Anderson: Utah's economy proof of principled and responsible leadership

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

This election, America faces a stark choice between the power of the free enterprise system and the stagnation that comes with over-dependence on government. Utah offers a preview of great things to come for the nation if we vote for the former.

I agree with Gov. Gary Herbert. Utah's plan for economic success is exactly what the U.S. economy needs. We have low and stable tax rates to help businesses grow, we steer clear of overregulation that hampers growth and we invest in the infrastructure to stimulate and support growth.

The proof is in the numbers. Utah's unemployment rate dropped this month to 5.4 percent — down from a high of 8.3 percent when Gov. Herbert took office — much lower than the national rate of 7.8 percent. More importantly, our state unemployment rate dropped because we are adding jobs while the most recent drop in the national rate is attributable to frustrated workers giving up hope and dropping out of the workforce altogether.

The unemployment rate is a primary indicator of economic strength, but the economic growth rate is another important measurement. Throughout much of this year, the Utah economy was reportedly growing at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the nation. Newly revised figures show we were actually growing at closer to triple the national rate.

Historically, our state economy grows at 3.1 percent. From March through June of this year, our economy grew between 3.0 percent and 3.6 percent. That healthy growth rate had our state within 6,500 jobs of regaining the jobs lost during the Great Recession at the end of June 2012. By now we have climbed out of the hole and we are in positive territory again.

There are other signs our economy is picking up speed on the path to recovery. The number of people depending on food stamps has decreased by 3.1 percent. The number of people on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is down by 17.9 percent. And Utahns have seen their wages increase by 6 percent.

Utah's economic recovery is not complete until everyone who wants a job can find one. That's why I support the goal to empower the private sector to create 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. You can bet any other state would trade their economic numbers for Utah's.

Our job creation is the result of a smart balance between supporting home-grown businesses and aggressively recruiting new businesses. Politicians in other states may say they want to strengthen their economies, but when Gov. Herbert says Utah will lead the nation as the best place to do business, he can back it up with a plan to get us there and a record that shows we are on the right path.

As a business leader, I realize the importance of a government that understands that the best way to grow an economy is to keep the playing field level, to provide a quality workforce and infrastructure, and then to get out of the way. Utah has solidified its position as the most business-friendly state in the nation and it is no surprise jobs have come as a result.

Scott Anderson is the president and CEO of Zions Bank.

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