Economic report cards were handed out for the 50 states Tuesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Corporation for Enterprise Development. Utah got passing grades in all categories but can forget about making the dean's list. That honor went almost exclusively to states in the booming Northeast.
According to "Making the Grade: The 1988 Development Report Card for the States," Utah pulled a lackluster B, two C's, and a D in the four subject indexes Performance, Business Vitality, Capacity and Policy that are compiled by the CED from 100 separate economic measures.If the 1987 CED report card on Utah made a lot of Utahns unhappy and it did the 1988 report should also generate some gnashing of teeth. While the state pulled itself up one full grade in three of the four categories, it took a dive in the fourth.
Utah got a D (30th place) this year in Business Vitality, down from an A last year and a ninth-place ranking. In 1987, the CED report card cited Utah's "competitiveness of existing business and ability to spawn new ones" as the reason for its "excellent" grade.
Twelve months later it says precisely the opposite. The D "reflect(s) the poor competitiveness of its businesses, which are suffering from a high business failure rate, low manufacturing investment and a weak level of traded sector activities."
That's the worst of it. In the other three sectors the state showed some but not dramatic improvement.
Performance. Utah earned a B up from a C last year "due to its moderate levels of unemployment and the broadly shared benefits of its growth. Holding back the Utah economy is its sluggish growth in employment and earnings." The state was ranked 16th in this category
Capacity. Utah earned a "high C" in the Capacity Index 22nd place "led by a strong showing in technological and human resource capacities, but weak financial resources." This mediocre grade was, nevertheless, an improvement over last year's D in this category that measures "human and capital resources, infrastructure capacity, amenities to attract and retain talent."
Policy. Utah merited a C in this index, for 28th place. Says the report card: "The state is aggressively investing in disadvantaged individuals and communities and is creating a healthy tax and fiscal environment, but it lags in some critical policy areas including mobilizing capital."
Several states, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont, brought home all A's and B's. These, according to CED President Robert Friedman are those which are "learning what America's best businesses have known for years the importance of adding value to their product.
"Business success today is no longer based simply on making more of something cheaper. Rather, the smart businesses winning the global economic competition focus on making something better, through innovation and a commitment to quality."
That's adding value, said Friedman, and the leading state governments are doing the same.
Utah's C in Policy, he said, means that more progress is necessary if the state is to advance through the ranks in today's economy.
The top-ranked states, said Friedman, have a longstanding commitment to public investments and public-private partnerships that strengthen their capacity to generate future growth.
Utah is ranked well down in a group that shows average or slightly better in performance, but average to weak efforts in development policy. The group includes Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois and Missouri.
The dozen states that garnered all D's and F's including Idaho and Wyoming are those most heavily dependent on energy and commodity production that create boom-and-bust economies.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development says it is a national non-profit research and consulting firm that "provides ideas and assistance to public and private organizations concerned with increasing economic opportunity . . . "