When Forbes named Utah to the top spot in its annual “Best States for Business and Careers” ranking last fall, the magazine cited the fact that Utah's economy has expanded 3.5 percent annually over the past five years, faster than any other state except North Dakota, and 3 1/2 faster than the United States as a whole. In addition, said the magazine said, Utah household incomes increased five percent annually, which is tops in the country and twice as fast as the national average.

In terms of business, Utah obviously has a few things going for it. But what’s next? With the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards in the Utah Region having just wrapped up, the finalists for those awards – some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the state – were asked to share their predictions (and in some cases, advice) about business in Utah and the world over the next five years.

1. General business

“We remain in a tenuous economy and frugality will be critical to surviving what might continue to be challenging times. Be lean and do not overextend your business with financial obligations, debt or inventory. It is important for businesses to regularly reinvent themselves. Companies that become complacent find themselves behind the curve and unable to catch up with fresh and innovative competitors.” – Corbin B. Church, CEO, Miche Bag

“The events that will change the business environment, economy and the sociological behaviors lie in improved technology, which affects all industries, medicine, IT, business programs, conservation of resources, including improved methods to store water for long periods of time, and improved transportation (transportation systems, cost of transportation, and use of technology for space travel and customization for the everyday consumer).” – Karen George, president and CEO, Wasatch Clinical Research

“Inflationary pressures must be carefully watched for impact on business.” – David R. Jenkins, president/CEO, Conservice

“I have a great deal of faith in the American system and the long-term opportunities that are available to anyone who can bring a real service to the marketplace and is willing to work hard. The fundamental freedoms that we enjoy in this country are and will continue to be the biggest driver that will make it possible for businesses to continue to succeed. I am confident about the long-term opportunities in Utah as well as the country as a whole. I believe that in the next three to five years Utah business will be in a very strong position.” – Larry Stevens, president/CEO, Med One Capital

“Businesses designed to maximize social benefit rather than maximize profit will become prevalent. In addition, ‘mompreneurs’ will give way to ‘couplepreneurs.’” – Orville Thompson, CEO, and Heidi Thompson, president, Scentsy

“Amazon will become the No. 2 retailer behind Walmart, and half of newspapers existing today will stop printing daily news.” – Ted Broman, president, IntegraCore

2. Technology and business

“Technology will continue to change the way we work with a continuing shift to work-from-home models.” – Robert W. Mendenhall, president, Western Governors University

“I predict that the pace of change is rapid now and will continue to accelerate over the next five years as technology advances and new business models emerge. The impact of this rapid pace will be a ripe environment for the true entrepreneur. As we have seen historically, vacuums will be created for new products and ideas and the entrepreneur who takes advantage of this will see success and be fruitful.” – David Dangerfield, president/CEO, Avalon Health Care

3. Health care and business

“I am concerned about the impact of the federal health care bill on a long-term basis. On one hand it could increase demand for health care services to an extent that it will create major opportunities to any business that serves the health care community. On the other hand it will be very expensive to provide health care coverage for our employees under the provisions of this act. My belief is that health care reform will ultimately become part of our landscape that we will have to deal with. I believe that in general it will have a stifling effect on business.” – Larry Stevens, president/CEO, Med One Capital

4. Education and business

“In the U.S. there will be a growing mismatch between the skills of workers and the needs of employers which will require more focus on providing higher education for working adults, and will make it more difficult and expensive to find the right employees. Most jobs will require post-secondary education, further straining our higher education capacity.” – Robert W. Mendenhall, president, Western Governors University

5. Politics/government and business

“The government should not have so much power to regulate business. The economy will only be successful when the individual businessman can exercise initiative.” – Karen George, president and CEO, Wasatch Clinical Research

“I predict the country will continue to struggle with debt and this will have a dampening effect on access to capital and historical opportunities. Entrepreneurs and other business leaders will need to step forward to appropriately place statesmen and stateswomen who can focus on the good of the whole. This will be a necessary exercise of getting the right people in the right political offices.” – David Dangerfield, president/CEO, Avalon Health Care

“The federal government has to get its fiscal house in order. This is, granted, a complex issue, but if it is not dealt with appropriately it will become very difficult to effectively run a business of any kind anywhere in the United States. The cards will simply be stacked against legitimate business in such a dramatic way that it would be difficult to exist. I think that this problem is now on the minds of the American people and that there will be a resolution worked out.” – Larry Stevens, president/CEO, Med One Capital

6. International business

“I predict that the economy in Utah will evolve into more of a world economy. As this occurs, the horizon for the entrepreneur will broaden and there will be an ability for this entrepreneur to embrace opportunities in a much larger scope.” – David Dangerfield, president/CEO, Avalon Health Care

“Africa will increasingly be recognized as an emerging market with economic potential similar to China, India and Brazil. Iraq will attract foreign investment interested in cashing in on the economic boom that’s created by government stability, increased security and a steady growth in oil sales. American business will opt out of participating in the growth engines of Africa and Iraq due to the perceived risks. But the diaspora from Iraq and Africa will use the capitalism they learn from the western cultures – especially America – to ride the wave of economic opportunity in their home countries.” – Paul Morrell, president, Al-Morrell Development

Kevan Barney is senior public relations strategist for The Summit Group Communications in Salt Lake City.