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We're No 4!

Forbes magazine this week released its first-ever rankings of "The Best States for Business," in which Utah placed fourth behind Virginia, Texas and North Carolina. The magazine ranked the states on 30 metrics in six categories: business costs, economic climate, growth prospects, labor, quality of life and regulatory environment.

Though gratified, state government and business leaders said the rankings were more a validation than a surprise.

"This is a great honor for the state of Utah to be recognized in this way," said Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "The six factors that were used to rank the states are tremendous economic development indicators, and our high ranking validates our message that Utah is open for business."

In the magazine's six areas of inquiry, Utah showed particular strength (a ninth-place ranking) in the labor category, which measures educational attainment, net migration and projected population growth. The state came in 11th in the "growth prospects" arena, a measure of projected job, income and gross state product growth, as well as business openings and venture capital investments.

Utah also logged solid, though not top-10, showings in quality of life and economic climate (both 17th), regulatory environment (18th) and business costs (19th).

"We are particularly gratified that Forbes has recognized what Utah businesses experience on a day-to-day basis," said Lane Beattie, president and chief executive of the Salt Lake Chamber. "Our economy is growing and our lifestyle really is second to none. But what really makes Utah rank high is its people. This is a great place to do business — and we will continue to work to make it even better."

Kelly K. Matthews, executive vice president and economist at Wells Fargo Bank, said Thursday that without further information about how the data was used and weighted it was difficult to comment on the Forbes rankings.

That said, Matthews said he likes Utah's "competitive position."

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"I've never lived in the other three states (Virginia, Texas or North Carolina), but certainly in terms of the broad measurements we look at month-to-month, there are four states that are growing most quickly: Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Utah," Matthews said.

"If I had to rank those top four states in terms of how I perceive their business climate, I like Utah every bit as much as any of the others. . . . I like what Utah's doing in terms of the way we're growing, and the prospects of what we could do in the future."

Behind Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Delaware, Florida and Georgia rounded out the top 10 in Forbes' rankings.

Virginia scored in the top 10 in all six categories, according to the magazine. No other state made the top 10 in more than three.