Utah's government fiscal policies ranked among the worst in the country, but the beehive state's skilled, non-union work force proved to be its biggest draw to manufacturers, a popular national survey released Wednesday said.
The annual Manufacturing Climates Study performed by national accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton ranked Utah 10th overall among 21 states with a low concentration of manufacturing.The study, unlike previous years, divided the 48 contiguous states into two categories: states with high concentrations of manufacturing and states with low concentrations of manufacturing. States with high concentrations contributed more than 2.08 percent of the value of the country's manufacturing shipments or had at least 16.74 percent of its work force engaged in manufacturing.
Utah's manufacturers contributed .46 percent of the value of the country's manufacturing shipments and 12.72 percent of the state's work force is employed by manufacturers, placing Utah among the low manufacturing intensity states.
Ranking number one among states with low concentrations of manufacturing was South Dakota. Idaho ranked 13th, Wyoming 19th, Colorado eighth and Nevada fourth.
Ranking number one among manufacturing intensive states was New Hampshire.
"Utah has a lot to offer manufacturers," said Roger D. Brown, managing partner of Grant Thornton's Salt Lake City office. "We compare favorably to many other states in factors that manufacturers see as important to their success."
Brown said Utah improved its standing over last year's study in 11 areas manufacturers consider important in selecting a state, while it fell in seven areas and remained unchanged in three other areas.
All the states were ranked in 21 areas developed from surveys of governors, state economic development officials and manufacturing associations.
Utah ranked fifth among all 48 states in availability of a skilled work force, and the state's low percentage of unionized workers - 5.5 percent compared to the national average of 19 percent - made it the fifth most attractive state to manufacturers considering that factor.
Utah also scored high in its low cost of workers' compensation insurance to manufacturers, ranking sixth nationally.
Those three areas are among the top four factors most important to manufacturers, the study said. The number one consideration is wages, in which Utah ranked 24th.
Brown said that means Utah can successfully serve manufacturers' most pressing needs, while allowing workers to make a living.
But the state did not fare as well in areas of government fiscal policy. Utah's use of its taxing powers ranked 43rd as did its ratio of government debt growth to personal income growth. The ratio measures a state's fiscal health and can indicate whether taxes will be raised to service the debt, the study said.
Utah was 45th in its average percent of time lost due to work stoppages. The study said work stoppages lower productivity, increase labor costs and disrupt factories - a category that ranked 14th in importance to manufacturers.
In the cost of living area which takes into account the average cost of housing, food, utilities and taxes as a percentage of the state's average personal income, Utah ranked 42nd.
In the area of education, Brown said, Utah scored number two in literacy and 12th in high school graduation, but the state's 23:1 student teacher ratio ranked last. Education expenditures ranked 36th and teacher salaries were 33rd.
Brown said the accounting firm's decision to divide states into two categories was prompted by complaints that the study's overall ranking figure was turning into a beauty contest for economic development officials.
"The division was made to get people to focus on each individual factor and not just the overall ranking."
Manufacturing climate rankings of states with a low concentration of manufacturing
So. Dakota 1st
No. Dakota 2nd
Utah ranking among 48 states
Government fiscal policies 43rd
Regulated employment costs 10th
Availability & productivity of resources 8th
Quality of life 28th