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Report ranks Utah No. 8 in tech-based economy

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 9:45 p.m. MST

Computer users use the Internet at the Millcreek Community Center Library in Salt Lake County Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Beehive State is among the best in the nation in its use of technology-based global pursuits, according to a report released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank.

Utah received the eighth highest overall score in the 84-page report entitled the 2012 State New Economy Index, which used 26 indicators divided into five categories that comprise the “new economy” and are necessary to be competitive and successful, according to the foundation.

“This is great news and recognition by others that Utah is on the right road for economic recovery," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. "We have a skilled workforce and a diverse economy that thrives off of a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Those five areas of focus are:

• Knowledge jobs: having a workforce and jobs based on higher skills

• Globalization: having strong global connections

• Economic dynamism: having dynamic firms, including strong, high-growth startups

• Digital economy: having industries and individuals embracing digital technologies

• Innovation capacity: having strong capabilities in technological innovation

The report stated that eighth-place Utah was ranked first in economic dynamism while scoring third in digital economy factors.

“Moreover, its high-tech manufacturing cluster centered around Salt Lake City and Provo support its first-place ranking in manufacturing value added,” the report said.

Utah garnered the top spot in four other subcategories, including inventor patents,  online population, e-government and manufacturing value added. Utah also ranked No. 10 or better in seven other subcategories. In all, Utah ranked No. 25 or higher in 23 of 26 measured economic indicators.

Joining Utah in the top 10 were Massachusetts, which topped the overall rankings, followed by Delaware, Washington, California, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Utah at No. 8, with Connecticut ranked ninth and New Jersey 10th.

The top 10 New Economy states have more in common than just high-tech firms. They also have a high concentration of managers, professionals, and college-educated residents working in “knowledge jobs” that require at least a two-year degree.

In contrast to other reports that assess performance or policies, New Economy is an index that measures the economic “structure” of states to determine how well a state is positioned to tap into and drive innovation-based growth.

The report notes that it is not enough for the United States to simply create jobs if it wants economic vitality.

“Instead, the economy will need to transition from low-skilled, low-wage jobs to more highly skilled and thus higher wage jobs.”

In the United States, it is the manufacturing sector where the competitiveness decline has been most dramatically felt. U.S. manufacturing employment declined 33 percent between 2000 and 2011, exceeding the loss during the Great Depression.

States that the report said are doing well since the Great Recession, like Utah, provide a nurturing but competitive playing field for entrepreneurs wanting to tap into more lucrative careers.

Utah, too, is high in the number of fast-growing firms and first in the country for the number of individual inventor patents granted, indicating conditions are ripe for innovation.

“While it is true that unemployment is dangerously high and policies should be put in place to create jobs, policies focused on short-term employment alone are a sprinter-strategy; mid- and long-term growth will rely on more substantive innovation policies,” the report states.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com, amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1, amyjoi16

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