Sam Penrod, Deseret News
The first test FrontRunner South commuter train arrives in Utah County on June 11, 2012. The new line opens on Dec. 10.
Winner: It's a three-peat. Forbes Magazine has again named Utah the No. 1 state for doing business. This is the third year in a row the state has been given the honor, which ought to squelch any idea it is a fluke. The magazine noted Utah's economy has expanded 2.3 percent since 2006, compared with 0.5 percent for the nation. Gov. Gary Herbert was quoted as saying the state benefits from low taxes, a strong labor force and a favorable regulatory climate. The Tax Foundation earlier this year listed Utah as having the sixth best tax rate for existing firms, and 10th best for new firms. None of this is helpful for the people who remain unemployed in a difficult economy, but it is an indication that Utah's leaders have made good decisions that have lessened the pain and poised the state for better times ahead.
Winner: In an even more impressive string, Utah topped the nation in voluntarism for the seventh year in a row, as measured by the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. The report uses Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data to craft its rankings. It also ranked Utah No. 1 in terms of people doing favors for neighbors. Lt. Gov. Greg Bell credited something "in the DNA of Utahns" as the true source of this behavior. That ought to be a source of community pride for all who live here. When broken down by cities, Provo and Orem ranked first and second in the nation, and Salt Lake City ranked fourth. The report said 40.9 percent of Utah adults volunteer, compared to 26.8 percent in the nation overall. In other words, it isn't even close.
Loser: We have no doubt the FrontRunner south line will be a great success, and that it will both relieve congestion on busy freeways and help people commute in comfort, but opening day was shaky, at best. Surely, UTA could have been better prepared for the crowds. Some vending machines didn't work, Wi-Fi service was spotty and other problems delayed some people and made their commutes far longer than they used to be with the express busses the train replaced. Some people were confused as to which side of the train they should board. By week's end, things were running smoother. We just hope some initial riders weren't scared away. With FrontRunner and TRAX (a new airport line is schedule to begin soon), the Wasatch Front now has an impressive mass-transit system.