Salt Lake City—Utah has received numerous economic honors in recent years, and those accolades took top billing at the Governor’s Utah Economic Summit on Friday. The accolades—like Forbes naming Utah the Best State for Business and Careers—were highlighted in video presentations, summarized on handy cards and posted throughout the Summit. They also featured prominently in the remarks and speeches.
Those accolades demonstrate why Utah’s economy is “the envy of the nation,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, who spoke at the Summit luncheon. Gov. Gary Herbert agreed.
“The accolades keep pouring in,” Herbert said.
But Herbert said the awards and rankings aren’t just distinctions to put on postcards—they’re based on solid economic performance. For instance, Utah has the second-highest job growth rate in the country, at 3.3 percent. It also has a very low unemployment rate and is one of only 10 states with an AAA bond rating from all three major credit rating agencies.
The economic strength of Utah is not an accident, but is due to the proactive planning of its leaders, said Herbert.
“We not only want and know how to win, but we’re willing to prepare and pay the price necessary to win,” he said.
Because planning for the future is, as Herbert said, “absolutely essential for economic development,” he has created a new economic development plan that he said will carry the state through 2020.
The plan has four focus areas. First, it is intended to grow and support businesses in both rural and urban communities. Second, it calls on government to engage with industry in building a diversified economy. Third, it places an emphasis on expanding tourists’ experience of Utah’s wonders, natural and cultural alike. And last, it renews Herbert’s call for unprecedented partnerships between industry, education and workforce development.
As an example of those partnerships, Herbert pointed to the recently created Aerospace Pathways Program, which enables Utah students to complete a certificate in aerospace manufacturing while still in high school. When they graduate, they can immediately begin a rewarding career in aerospace manufacturing.
The program was developed in partnership with school districts, Salt Lake Community College, Davis Applied Technology College, and several aerospace companies, including Boeing and Orbital ATK. The concept for the Aerospace Pathways Program, and its planning and implementation took just seven months. Since its launch, the program has been expanded to include unemployed and underemployed adults, a new Diesel Pathways Program was created and launched, and several others are in the works.
Some of Utah’s top rankings:
No. 1 Best State for Business and Careers – Forbes
No. 1 Best Economic Outlook of All States – ALEC’s 2015 Rich States, Poor States report
Most Positive Outlook about State Economy – Gallup
No. 1 Pro-Business State – Pollina Corporate Real Estate
Top Travel Destination in the World for 2016 – Fodor’s Travel
No. 1 for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – U.S. Chamber
No. 1 in Clean Energy Job Creation – Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)