Michael Brandy, Deseret News
The City Creek development in downtown Salt Lake City has provided a boost to the local economy.

SALT LAKE CITY — Cynics dismiss them as nothing more than economic "beauty contests."

Politicians use them as bullet points in their commercials to either prove their accomplishments or show why an opponent has failed.

Business recruiters tout them as proof that their part of the nation is the place to be for growth and development.

Love them or ignore them, magazine-produced "best-of" lists are here to stay. And Utah has found a place on many of them lately.

For example, the state recently landed at the top of the Forbes list of "The Best States for Business and Careers." Forbes points to the expansion of the state's economy and growth in household incomes as two factors that led to its top ranking.

Other media, like ConsumerAffairs.com, picked up on that ranking, too, spreading it to their own readers.

Gov. Gary Herbert did not hesitate to comment on this particular ranking, noting that Utah officials "made a conscious decision to make economic development a priority (and) have since consistently climbed in the rankings."

Of course, if one state is ranked at the top of the list, someone's also going to be at the bottom. For the Forbes rankings, the No. 50 spot was occupied by Maine. That led to an editorial in one of the state's newspapers that called the ranking "another dispiriting black mark for a state that can ill afford any more."

Meanwhile, an article on a Rhode Island business website was able to be slightly more positive, since that state moved up in the Forbes ranking — to No. 49.

And Forbes wasn't the only magazine touting the relatively strong economy of Utah and its cities this year.

Short commute times, plentiful jobs and "decent" property values bumped Salt Lake City to the No. 4 spot in Parenting magazine's list of the top 10 "Best in Economy" cities.

Utah also ranked well in surveys that looked beyond economics to focus on the health or livability of states.

For example, according to the "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010" report, the Beehive State is the eighth least obese state in the United States.

In other words, even as such studies feed their egos, Utahns apparently are not feeding their faces.

e-mail: gkratz@desnews.com