Out of the nation's 100 largest metro areas examined in MarketWatch's latest rankings of the 10 cities in 2012 that saw business prosper the most, Salt Lake City beat out the competition and joined cities like Austin, Boston and Washington, D.C. in the top 10.
The city rankings are based on a variety of economic data divided into the three main categories of business environments, the performance of publicly traded companies located within the metro areas and the resulting effects on their economy over the past year.
"Metro areas with strong ties to technology and energy fared well during the year — and those areas building up a presence in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical space are getting a bonus of jobs and general wealth," MarketWatch's Russ Britt wrote. "We found that variables such as climate and quality of life often have little to do with whether a region thrives; it's more the concentration of business and talent that make the difference."
See what cities made this year's top 10 list.
According to the MarktWatch analysis, there are now 17 companies on the New York Stock Exchange based in Austin, along with 25 firms on the Nasdaq.
Austin was tops among the cities studied in the total number of business establishments added, second in real GDP improvement and fourth in the ratio of patents secured, coming in behind San Jose, Boise and San Francisco in the third category.
Companies like Hanger Inc., a maker of prosthetic devices, have moved to Austin in search of a place to grow, a lower cost of living, lower taxes and a culture of innovation and creativity in potential employees in the area, Vinit Asar, Hanger's chief executive, said.
According to a 24/7 Wall St. report released in March, Americans paid an average of 9.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The Texas tax burden is lower than this, coming in at 7.9 percent. Taxes paid per capita averaged $3,104 with $0 in income taxes paid per capita.
>> This is the skyline of Austin, taken from Butler Park, looking towards Lady Bird Lake.
Boston came in behind Austin in this year's ranking, lagging behind the Texas city in some economic metrics that checked improvement in unemployment rates and personal income, as well as job growth and the proportion of new businesses created.
However, according to the MarketWatch rankings, Boston has the "holy grail" of business success in its deep talent pool thanks to its more than 100 colleges and universities in the metro area.
The tax burden in Massachusetts stands at 10.4 percent, according to 24/7 Wall St., and taxes paid per capita totaled $5,422. Income taxes paid per capita averaged around $1,549.
>> A solitary runner heads down the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Houston's bronze-medal spot in this year's MarketWatch survey comes as the city begins to diversify away from energy and venture into new industries.
According to Jacqueline Northcut, chief executive of BioHouston Inc., Houston is now home to more than 200 biotech and other health-related companies, although most are small startups.
In Texas, taxes paid per capita averaged $3,104 with $0 in income taxes paid per capita, according to 24/7 Wall St.
>> The spires of the 19th-century Annunciation Church, foreground, shares the Houston skyline with steel and glass skyscrapers as well as older buildings under renovation Thursday, July 10, 2003, in Houston.
Inconsistent performances among the more established companies located in San Jose kept it from claiming a higher spot on the list, MarketWatch's Russ Britt wrote. However, the city is tops among all 100 metro areas in productivity improvement, personal income growth and payroll growth.
"The one key area where San Jose rises above all others is in patents secured," the report said. "Statistics show that in 2010, the region obtained a patent for every 182 people living in the greater metro area, three times more concentrated than second-place finisher Boise, Idaho."
California's tax burden, according to 24/7 Wall St., totals 11.2 percent, while taxes paid per capita stood at $4,934 and income taxes paid per capita totaled $1,229.
>> The San Jose skyline is seen from City Hall in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.
Portland took the middle spot in this year's list of the top 10 thanks to its ability to post solid numbers in virtually all metrics.
One thing working against Portland's favor is that its tax structure can inhibit growth, said Ray Link, chief financial officer of FEI Co. However, Washington's proximity can offer some tax relief for businesses and individuals.
According to 24/7 Wall St., Oregon's tax burden is 10 percent, with $3,729 in taxes paid per capita and $1,293 in income taxes paid per capita. Comparatively, Washington's tax burden is 9.3 percent, taxes paid per capita are $4,261 and income taxes paid per capita are $0.
>> In this July 10, 2008, file photo, a bicyclist travels along the east bank of the Willamette River as the downtown skyline is bathed in early morning sunlight in Portland, Ore.
Washington, D.C., boasts the highest proportion of graduate degrees of any city in the study; roughly one in eight metro area residents holds a post-bachelor diploma, and one in six has a bachelor's degree.
While the talent pool can help entice companies, the biggest draw for businesses looking to grow is the area's largest customer — the U.S. government.
"It really has been the No. 1 magnet to draw tech-oriented companies and service-oriented companies," said Rich Montoni, chief executive of Maximus Inc. Maximus helps operate government health care programs across the U.S. and world.
>> This Tuesday, July 3, 2007 picture shows the skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol.
Although San Francisco mirrors San Jose in many ways, its growth may be inhibited by a tax structure "that makes it difficult to do business," the MarketWatch rankings said.
Even so, California's reliance on taxing businesses doesn't seem to be making a difference, according to Zach Nelson, chief executive of NetSuite Inc., because "people are valued here far more than any tax issue."
California's tax burden stands at 11.2 percent, according to 24/7 Wall St., while taxes paid per capita are $4,934 and income taxes paid per capita are $1,229.
>> A man carries an umbrella as he crosses Vermont Street with the San Francisco skyline in the background in San Francisco, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.
By itself, the Bridgeport region is the 56th largest metro area in the U.S., and while it's not growing as fast as other areas on the list, MarketWatch included it because of factors like payroll growth, GDP improvement and its talent pool.
Much of the business growth in the area may be tied to logistical needs, Brad Jacobs, chief executive officer of XPO Logistics said, citing the proximity of New York City as a selling point.
Connecticut's tax burden stands at 12.3 percent, according to 24/7 Wall St. Taxes paid per capita are $6,984 and income taxes paid per capita are $1,616.
>> Seagulls fly around people playing with a ball on the beach in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, March 19, 2012
Salt Lake City may not post "spectacular numbers," according to MarketWatch, but it makes the top 10 list because it posts solid stats.
Salt Lake "has a high concentration of companies, many of which did well during the past year in profits, revenue and stock improvement" the report said. "It also managed to ratchet down its unemployment numbers by a healthy clip."
The major drawback for Salt Lake, however, is the "relatively sparse population," which impacts its talent pool, the report said. As a counterpoint, though, the tax climate earned praise from businesses.
Utah's tax burden is 9.3 percent, taxes paid per capita are $3,181 and income taxes paid per capita are $765, 24/7 Wall St. reported.
>> Aerial view of the Salt Lake City skyline, Friday, June 29, 2012.
Rounding out the top 10 cities for growing businesses, Raleigh is similar to Salt Lake in that it doesn't have "the critical mass" yet, but its location as part of North Carolina's "Research Triangle" helps push it into the final spot.
Raleigh got high marks in economic metrics, education scores and concentration of commerce, MarketWatch reported.
According to 24/7 Wall St., North Carolina's tax burden is 9.9 percent, taxes paid per capita are $3,535 and income taxes paid per capita are $961.
>> A woman carrying an umbrella leaves the N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., during an afternoon rain, Thursday, June 2, 2005.