They say timing is everything, but Financial World magazine's announcement Tuesday that Utah is the best state in the nation at managing its financial resources seemed almost too good to be true as it was announced at the Sixth Annual Governor's Conference on Economic Development and Education.

It's the kind of capper that made this year's conference at Little America Hotel one that participants will still recall next year when business and government leaders, citizens and students gather once again to assess how Utah is doing in economic development and education - the synergistic showpieces of any state's national and international standing as a place to live and do business.But if the first-place ranking was the dessert of this year's conference, the meat and potatoes were the various awards handed out to business owners, entrepreneurs and high school students - some of whom have managed to launch six-figure business ventures while juggling Latin and biology classes on the side.

Particularly awe inspiring is Sam Francis, a Judge Memorial High School student who launched Sam's Candies and Gifts in Centerville four years ago with a stake of $1,000. Francis won first prize in the annual Young Entrepreneur Awards and a check for $10,000.

Sounding like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company - which he'll probably be some day - Francis told the luncheon gathering in the Grand Ballroom that his enterprise has grown to where he will gross more than $200,000 this year. His gimmick? Don't just sell customers a box of chocolates for their gift giving, sell them an artfully arranged basket of goodies that delights the eye as much as the palate.

In second place was Heath Hendrickson, Richfield High School, who launched Panorama (video) Game Rental in Richfield. Taking third-place honors was Daniel Nell, Cottonwood High School, whose Certified Security locksmith business grosses $120,000 annually. Both received cash awards and eight other finalists were recognized by the governor.

Seldon Young, an entrepreneur who started Nice Corp. and Matrixx Marketing and the man credited with being the driving force behind the Young Entrepreneur Awards, was also recognized. Young said he was staying with the spirit of entrepreneurism by leaving Matrixx to start a new company he will call Neat Inc. He didn't elaborate on the nature of that business.

The Governor's Business Development Award went to automobile dealer and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller. "His willingness to take risks make him stand out," Gov. Norm Bangerter said.

Recalling how he started out with $88,000 in savings and "a couple of hundred thousand" in bank loans, Miller told the gathering that anyone with determination can reach the heights in business.

"I do just what you do," he said. "I show up for work each day and hope something good comes out of it."

Also recognized were the 1991 Utah Small Business Award winners, a program sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration each year in advance of Small Business Week May 5-11.

Lt. Gov. Val Oveson presented the following awards:

Small Business Person of the Year - Terabit Computer Engineering Inc. Allen H. Tanner, founder and chief executive; Lorin D. Bice, president; Jacob Helland, vice president.

Small Business Exporter of the Year - Utah and Region VIII - Hutco Inc, doing business as Goldfield Engineering and Machine Works, G. James Hutchins, owner and president.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Chisco Inc., Beirne Chisolm, president; Gregg R. Chisol, secretary.

Advisory Council Award - Chums Ltd., Michael Blake Taggett, president and founder.

District Director's Volunteer Award - Norman P. Fitzgerald Jr., who has served 19 years as a volunteer for the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), and Sterling Francom, director of the Entrepreneurship Center, Salt Lake Community College.