SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah works to improve its economy, building a strong pro-business climate will be key to promoting growth, according to the state's top political executive.

Speaking at the Governor's Utah Economic Summit before an audience of nearly 900 people Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert said encouraging businesses to create more jobs is how the state is going to continue moving ahead economically.

"Everybody wants to have a job," he said. "Jobs are how we pay our own bills. When we have small businesses come together and learn from each other (about) new techniques, best business practices … it means they're going to add jobs, hire people (and) create more economic opportunity."

Herbert said the state should make growing the economy its number one focus … and, as a result, everything else will benefit.

"If we want to have more money for education, then grow the economy," he said. "If you want money for transportation, grow the economy. More money for health and human services, have a healthy economy."

A prosperous economy is the "linchpin for all the needs we have in our society," Herbert said.

That message was well received by many in the audience, including Ted Paulsen, a Salt Lake area attorney and small-business owner.

He said he believes Utah is doing a good job of supporting business, while not being overly burdensome with too many unnecessary regulations or high taxes.

"I want to hear that (the state) … is trying to be fiscally responsible and trying to help instead of impeding (small-business growth)," he said. "They are trying to help us develop business here and be successful here."

Paulsen said the strong support from state government seems to be a "pretty good recipe for success."

Meanwhile, other small-business owners also expressed positive comments regarding the state's pro-business approach to economic growth, despite some lean times just a few years ago.

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Susen Sawatzki, publisher of Salt Lake-based Adnews Magazine, said in 2007, "The phone just stopped ringing. It was really abrupt."

She said her advertising clients dwindled and the marketing sector took a severe "hit" during the recession, but the state has been supportive in helping her industry regain its footing.

Herbert said part of the state's mission is help businesses in times of struggle and to eventually lead the nation "as the best performing economy and be recognized as a premier global business destination."

"We need to be able to … not only compete, but to win in every category," Herbert said.