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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is again setting an example for the nation.
The Beehive State ranked as the best overall performing state in economic growth for the second year in a row, according to a 2014 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study.
While Utah ranked No. 3 for economic performance — behind North Dakota and Texas — it was the only state to place in the top 10 in all categories of the study.
In addition to measuring general economic state performance, the study also measured economic growth in separate categories that represent five policy areas that add to job growth and economic health — talent pipeline, exports and international trade, technology and entrepreneurship, business climate, and infrastructure.
Gov. Gary Herbert celebrated the recognition Wednesday, attributing the health of Utah’s economy to government policies and programs that “empower the private sector” and advocate job growth in high-tech and middle-skill industries.
“We’re grateful for the successes that we’re having,” Herbert said. “We’ve made some tough decisions; we’ve made correct decisions. We’ve got good policies and principles in place, and that means we should be optimistic in the future.”
The fifth edition of the foundation’s annual Enterprising States study examined state policies that are promoting economic and job growth across the country.
Utah ranked third in exports and infrastructure; fourth in talent pipeline, and technology and entrepreneurship; and sixth in business climate, according to the study.
Utah’s “balanced approach” to pursuing suitable policies and its industrial diversity has contributed to the state’s strong economy, said John McKernan, U.S. president of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
“The fact that we’ve diversified and don’t have all of our economic eggs in one basket really gives us a reason to be optimistic going forward,” Herbert said.
Utah’s innovative policies are giving “the entire nation insights into what policies work and which ones don't,” McKernan said.
The report showed the state’s investments in education programs, including the STEM Utah: Curiosity Unleashed campaign, have helped boost student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
Utah ranked No. 4 in the nation for job growth in those technology areas, boasting a 77 percent increase in high-tech jobs and 20.9 percent growth in middle-skill jobs between 2004 and 2014, the report states.
Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said while some other states may rank higher in separate categories, Utah’s high “across-the-board” performance is contributing to the state’s success.
We may not be the top and the best at everything, but we are above average and actually approaching excellence in so many categories. Sometimes it doesn't require just the best.
–Val Hale, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development
“We may not be the top and the best at everything, but we are above average and actually approaching excellence in so many categories,” Hale said. “Sometimes it doesn’t require just the best.”
It’s the “entrepreneurial spirit” of Utahns that drives the success of the state’s economy, McKernan said.
Government efforts to “weed out” unnecessary business regulations and to continue supporting a free market is a strategy of the “Utah model,” Herbert said.
“How we make a difference in Utah is we let our business people shine,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.
Smart investments in infrastructure, a “vibrant talent pool,” growing export industries, and a thriving technology sector are all factors that have enriched Utah’s economy, Beattie said.
Herbert said he has high expectations for Utah’s economic future, hoping it will again be named as best overall performing state in economic prosperity next year.
“We’re going to see if we can do this again,” he said.
Katie McKellar is a Dixie State University graduate with a bachelor of science in mass communication. Before interning at Deseret News, she reported and edited news content for Dixie Sun News, first as Photo Editor, then as Features Editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org