Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Beehive State rates among the best places for business, according to a report from financial news network CNBC, despite a slip in the rankings.
Utah tied with Virginia at No. 5 in CNBC's “America’s Top States for Business,” both compiling a score of 1,542 out of a possible 2,500 points. It was the first time in the seven-year history of the report that there has been a tie in the top five.
After finishing in the No. 2 spot last year, falling to No. 5 could be considered a bit of a letdown, with a silver lining, the report states.
Utah had a strong score in “business friendliness,” which examines a state's legal and regulatory climate, finishing fourth among all states. That ranking was partially due to a corporate and individual tax rate of 5 percent, among the lowest in the nation.
Utah has a low unemployment rate of 4.6 percent — health care is the largest industry in the Beehive State, with Intermountain Healthcare the state’s largest employer with some 32,000 workers.
Among the categories that declined from last year was workforce — which fell because while unemployment is low, prospective employers have a limited pool of available workers, said Scott Cohn, CNBC senior correspondent and lead investigative reporter.
Quality of life declined from No. 10 to No. 21 due to pollution and environment concerns, he explained. Infrastructure fell as well as contributing to the three spot drop to No. 5 overall, he said. Utah's worst category in 2013 was education, where it ranked 39th.
Even with its drop in the ranking, the report noted, Utah has a strong economy and “clearly has its fiscal house in order.” The state is projecting a $200 million surplus once fiscal year 2013 numbers are all tallied, the reported states.
“Being ranked in the Top 5 by CNBC for the second year demonstrates the governor’s focus on Utah leading the nation as the best performing economy and being recognized as a premier global business destination," said Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Gary Herbert. "Though this recognition and others are nice to receive, it’s more important to focus on what’s attracting businesses to Utah and to build on that success."
Rankings for America’s Top States for Business were determined using publicly available data based on 55 different measures of competitiveness developed with input from business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness, as well as the states themselves. States received points based on their rankings in each metric, which were separated into 10 broad categories, with the categories weighted based on how frequently they were cited as selling points in state economic development marketing materials.
The governor's office acknowledged the concerns raised in the report and pledged to address them through policies aimed at improving economic opportunities for all Utahns.
"A few of the rankings demonstrate fully why the governor's goal of 66 percent of the adult population receiving a post-secondary degree by 2020 is essential for our continued economic success," Isom said. "Utah must do better in aligning our workforce with the needs of the workplace — this is only done through education. Even with our current success in job growth and low unemployment rate, we must continue to reinforce the importance of improving our education system, the quality of life, infrastructure and overall cost of doing business."