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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Pedestrians walk on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 7, 2013. Salt Lake City and Orem-Provo have been listed by Forbes as some of the best cities for jobs.
Provo and its residents enjoy an incredible quality of life, amazing residents, and an entrepreneurial spirit that isn't easily matched. This ranking is a symptom or result of those things. —Provo Mayor John Curtis

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s economy continues to garner national attention as the state’s two largest metropolitan areas have landed among the employment elite.

Forbes magazine announced that Salt Lake City ranked No. 3 for “Best Big Cities for Jobs for 2013" with 4 percent employment growth last year. This year, the state’s capital city is ranked No. 16 overall economically. Salt Lake City trailed only the San Francisco and Nashville, Tenn., metro areas in the nationwide survey.

The Provo-Orem area ranked second on the list of “Best Mid-size Cities for Jobs 2013” in the Forbes report with job growth of 5.1 percent in 2012. Overall, Provo-Orem ranked 11th this year for its economic growth. Topping the list of midsize cities was Boulder, Colo.

Forbes ranked all 398 current metropolitan statistical areas across the country based on employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from November 2001 through January 2013. Rankings were based on recent growth trends, midterm growth, long-term growth and the region’s momentum.

"Provo and its residents enjoy an incredible quality of life, amazing residents, and an entrepreneurial spirit that isn't easily matched," said Provo Mayor John Curtis. "This ranking is a symptom or result of those things.”

The publication broke down rankings by size since regional economies differ markedly due to their scale. For the big cities list, Forbes ranked the 66 metropolitan areas that each have more than 450,000 jobs, while for the midsize cities, Forbes ranked the 91 areas with employment rolls between 150,000 and 450,000.

This most recent ranking was the latest in string of accolades for the Beehive State:

• In December, Forbes announced that Utah headed its 2012 list of the Best States for Business for the third year in a row. Citing Utah’s stable economy and pro-business policies, the state was able to retain the nationwide top spot.

The report touted the state’s economic expansion of 2.3 percent annually since 2006 — fifth best in the country — compared to 0.5 percent for the rest of the nation as one of the major contributing factors for the top ranking.

• In June, Forbes released its 14th annual "Best Place for Business and Careers," listing Provo at No. 1 ahead of Raleigh, N.C., and Fort Collins, Colo. Also cracking the top 10 was Ogden at No. 6, with Salt Lake City coming in at No. 24 on the list of the top metro areas nationwide.

The report noted that Provo's $16 billion economy was bolstered by Brigham Young University — the third-largest private college by enrollment in the nation. In 2010, the school ranked behind only the University of Utah and MIT in the number of startup companies produced through university research.

Forbes said Provo also enjoyed the third best job growth in the country last year at 3 percent, as well as the lowest violent crime rate in the U.S.

“It’s a cumulative effort of individual businesses creating products and services that are desirable in the market,” said Dixon Holmes, Provo deputy mayor of economic development.

“Provo and Utah Valley have created an environment where those businesses can thrive," he said, noting that the young, well-educated workforce has a large population of those who speak a second language.

Last month, Curtis announced an agreement to make Provo just the third city in the United States to have access to Google Fiber’s ultra high-speed gigabit Internet. And Utah is already home to hundreds of technology companies and startups, many based in Provo.

"These are also reasons we're able to complete deals with companies like Google Fiber. We strive to enhance our overall business-friendly environment by attracting new companies while growing and expanding our existing ones," Curtis said.

Salt Lake City jumped from a ranking of 22nd in 2012 to the top-five position this year.

A spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said that the Forbes report is “further evidence that the things we're focusing on at City Hall — sustainable growth, high quality of life, a welcoming and equitable community, a decision-making process that prioritizes sustainability and an education system that provides unobstructed paths for everyone from cradle-to-college-to-career — continue to keep Salt Lake City among the nation's job leaders,” said Art Raymond, director of communications.

In the past five years, Salt Lake City has seen its job base grow with the development of City Creek Center and the resultant expansion of downtown development. Additionally, global investment bank Goldman Sachs' Salt Lake City office is now the company’s second largest in the Americas with about 1,500 employees.

Statewide, large U.S. companies with international operations, such as eBay, Oracle and Procter & Gamble, have expanded their Utah presence.

“These are continued mile markers along the path that we have set out to be the leading state economy in the nation,” said Spencer Eccles, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“Our successes are a result of everyone working together in a collaborative way, at the state, city, county, education and all important industry level.”

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