Provo-Orem, Salt Lake City among best performers for business

Published: Friday, Jan. 24 2014 6:25 p.m. MST

A view of Salt Lake City from KSL Chopper 5.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah cities are being acknowledged as among the best places to do business in the country.

A recent report from the Milken Institute ranked the Provo-Orem area as No. 2 and Salt Lake City as No. 5 on its list of the Top 25 Best-Performing Large Cities for business.

Rankings for the study were based on data from both long- and short-term growth in jobs, wages, salaries and technology output.

Provo-Orem moved up five spots from last year’s ranking, due in part to the growing technology sector and high job growth rate, according to the report.

Salt Lake City ranked No. 5 on the Milken list due to a diverse, consistently growing economy with a positive outlook for the future, the report stated. During 2012, Utah's capital city added 2,600 professional, scientific and technical services jobs — a gain of more than 7 percent from the previous year.

According to the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the Milken Institute rankings mirrored a study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley.

The study, "The Equality of Opportunity Project," mapped the 10 best and worst cities for economic mobility in the United States. The report ranked Salt Lake City as the top city for economic mobility.

The report showed taht the Provo-Orem metro area continued its steady climb in the rankings, rising five places to second in 2013. The metro recorded the highest one-year job growth among its peers in 2012 and the seventh-highest job growth over the 12 months ending in July 2013, the report stated.

Software and computer system design have led the expansion, according to the report. BYU was credited as “the backbone of the metro’s thriving tech sector.” The metro ranks second in patent growth from 1990 to 2010, with Novell and Ancestry.com among the major employers in Utah Valley.

The report noted that Provo was one of three U.S. cities with Google Fiber fiber-optic service, “which should aid in the recruitment and expansion of cloud storage firms in the region and warehousing activity.”

The area is also expected to benefit from Nu Skin’s new $85 million Innovation Center, an expansion at Utah Valley University, and the new National Security Agency data storage center near Camp Williams, “which will likely increase local data-processing and computer jobs.”

New home and apartment activity in Utah County is driving new construction jobs, with double-digit employment gains in recent months, the report stated.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake City moved up one spot to fifth overall. The capital city’s success is based on the targeted recruitment of large, high-value added firms, such as Goldman Sachs, and emerging startups from local universities. The Salt Lake metro area ranked 10th in five-year high-tech growth, due in part to the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative.

“Founded by the University of Utah in 2006 to leverage commercialization opportunities, USTAR is now a recognized leader in technology-based economic development,” the report stated. USTAR recently won the State Science and Technology Institute’s 2013 Expanding Research Capacity award.

The city’s technology landscape includes computer system design, software, medical devices, and biopharmaceuticals. Cybersecurity is also a growing industry with California-based FireEye creating 250 positions that pay significantly more than the area average annual wage, according to the report.

In 2012, Salt Lake City added 2,600 professional, scientific and technical services jobs — up more than 7 percent. The leisure and hospitality sector is adding jobs at a brisk pace as outdoor tourism expands, the report said, with the financial services sector improving as well.

“A strong recovery in housing and commercial construction is a byproduct of this success,” the report said. “Salt Lake’s economy shows no signs of slowing with recent job growth at fourth in the nation.”

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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