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Winners and losers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 8:55 a.m. MST

Winner: By now, Utahns are used to seeing national publications or organizations rank Utah and its cities among the best places to do business in the nation. Still, it's always worth trumpeting, especially as the nation struggles to emerge from a sluggish economy. This week, a study by Economic Modeling Specialists International ranked the Provo-Orem area fourth in terms of the most competitive metro areas for jobs. The study is significant in that it measured overall job change over the last two years. The Salt Lake City metro area ranked sixth. The report said Provo-Orem "has seen surprisingly large job gains in professional, scientific, and technical services." Actually, it's not terribly surprising to those who have lived here and observed conditions for awhile.

Loser: Whooping cough is continuing its march across the United States. Utah is on pace to double the number of cases reported last year, and the upcoming holidays, with parties and other indoor gatherings, is likely to make things worse. As of last month, 48 states were reporting increases in whooping cough, or pertussis, cases over a year ago. Utah's rate, though alarming, is not as high as that of several other states. Experts say the vaccine, which loses its effectiveness without a timely booster shot, may be to blame for the outbreak. Meanwhile, schools are scrambling to detect the problem when it appears and to provide necessary safety measures for those who might easily be exposed. This is one more reminder that diseases once thought to be eradicated can return if people don't adequately protect themselves.

Winner: The Glen Canyon Dam opened its floodgates this week, sending water downstream toward the Grand Canyon. It's the fourth such flood in the last 16 years, part of an experiment to restore some of the sediment that now is trapped on the bottom of Lake Powell. The hope is the floods will restore the beaches and sandbars that are important for the native plants and animals in the Grand Canyon. Before the dam was built, the sediments were carried naturally through the canyon by frequent floods. The artificial floods provide a measure of compromise between the canyon's environmental needs and the power-generating and water needs provided by the dam to millions of people in the West. It won't be the last word in that compromise, but it's a decent start.

Winner: Tax-revenue projections tend to signal whether state lawmakers are going to have a good session in January, or one marked by difficult compromises and cuts. They also give a good indication as to how the state's overall economy is doing. This week Gov. Gary Herbert announced some good news. Lawmakers will have an extra $421 million when they meet in session in January. That includes $121 million in one-time funds left over from the current budget year and $300 million new growth. Don't get too giddy, though. Lots of agencies and departments have plans for spending at least that much.

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