A recently completed annual report by the Utah Valley Economic Development Association shows an unprecedented number of new business projects during 1997.

The report indicates 538 projects received building permits last year with a total valuation of $515 million; up 52 percent from 355 projects valued at $440 million in 1996. There were 254 projects in 1995.The projects are broken into four categories: industrial, commercial, retail and miscellaneous. The commercial and retail categories both had more than 200 projects that included entertainment and hotel complexes. Retail numbers include Dillards and JC Penney in the new Provo Towne Centre Mall under construction, and projects at the Riverwoods shopping center.

"Things really started to take off when Money magazine ranked Utah Valley as the best place in America to live a few years ago, and it hasn't stopped since, said Richard M. Bradford, executive director of Utah County Business Development Department.