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Success as a Best Practice

Governor Gary R. Herbert's Vision for Expanding Utah's Leadership

By Kimball Thomson | Photos by Erick Ostling

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert likens his state’s emergence from the long, stubborn global economic downturn that began with the financial crisis of 2007-8 to the experience of a prizefighter at career prime. “After going through some really tough bouts, we have been knocked around like all the other fighters in the ring,” says Herbert. “Yet here we find ourselves not only standing but actually victorious, feeling ready and confident about the upcoming fights. We were able to stand and improve through this difficult time. We have done battle, we are winning, and our future is going to get better and better.”

Photo by Eric Zelding

An Abiding Belief in Utah

Those who know Utah’s 17th Governor won’t be surprised that he employs such an energetic sports metaphor to describe his state’s current situation and future prospects.

The work ethic of this Utah native—former star quarterback, baseball captain and point guard of the basketball team for Utah County’s Orem High Tigers—is the stuff of legend Though 80-to-90-hour work weeks are par for the course for him, this governor doesn’t feel put out by the rigors of office. Herbert’s energy is fueled by an abiding belief in his state, and optimism about its future. “I am a huge believer in the people of Utah, and I’ve never been more bullish about where we are and where we’re headed as a state.”

The Governor is not alone in his assessment of his state’s advantages and prospects.

Utah holds a perennial place at or near the top among U.S. states in economic/ business performance, governance and quality of life. In all these areas, Governor Herbert and his team are committed to extending the state’s advantage.

Expanding the Nation’s Most Dynamic Economy

On the business and career front, Utah occupies the national pole position. In 2012 the state garnered the top spot in the prestigious Forbes magazine list of the “Best State for Business and Careers” for the third consecutive year. The award is a comprehensive sampling of categories, including Business Costs, Labor Supply, Regulatory Environment, Economic Climate, Growth Prospects and Quality of Life.

“My vision for Utah’s business climate and community remains steadfast,” says Governor Herbert. “Utah will continue to expand its leadership as the nation’s premier location for building a company or a career.”

Persistent Dynamism. The Kauffman Foundation’s 2012 State New Economy Index—released every four years—has for the second consecutive time named Utah number 1 among U.S. states for Economic Dynamism. The state, ranked 8th overall, was also first in the subcategories of Inventor Patents, E-Government, Manufacturing Value Added and Online Population, second in Job Churning, fourth in Fastest Growing Firms and Venture Capital, ninth in Export Focus of Manufacturing & Services and Online Agriculture, and tenth in High-Tech Jobs and Initial Public Offerings.

The 2012 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Rich States, Poor States report named Utah the top state for “Expected Economic Recovery and Economic Outlook.” It was the fifth consecutive year that Utah had achieved this distinction.

In August 2012, Utah was awarded the number one spot in the Pollina Corporate Top Pro-Business States report. The report was based on a rigorous, multifaceted study of 32 factors that Pollina Corporate Real Estate Inc. weighs in determining the best business environment for corporate organizations: from taxes and right-to-work legislation to human resources, energy costs, infrastructure, workers compensation, financial incentives and other economic development efforts.

Utah also achieved the number two ranking in a trio of significant 2012 studies. Business Facilities’ “Best Business Climate,” ranked the states based on their respective desirability as a place to move or expand a business. CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business” measured the relative performance of U.S. states in economy, cost of doing business, cost of living, workforce, quality of life, transportation & infrastructure, education, business friendliness and access to capital. U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s study called “The Next Boom States,” ranked Utah in the top five among U.S. states in the business creation rate and in every significant job growth measures. The study concluded that Utah’s strong performance and affordable environment positioned the state exceptionally well for wealth-creating companies for the foreseeable future.

“Utah is now recognized more than ever as a fantastic place to build or expand a business,” says Herbert. “In key industries like IT, life sciences, financial services and aerospace, our financial soundness and quality workforce are making this a destination of choice.”

On the IT front, he cites the growing presence of Adobe, Microsoft, eBay, Oracle and Micron. In life sciences, he points to major divisions of Bard, GE Healthcare and Edwards Lifesciences, together with indigenous leaders Myriad Genetics, Merit Medical and BioFire Diagnostics. Infinancial services, Utah houses one of the fastest-growing offices of Goldman Sachs, and in aerospace ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrup-Grumman.

“Because of the companies from inside and outside the state who are growing their operations here, we are progressing toward our goal of creating 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days,” Herbert adds.

Excellent Neighbors and Corporate Citizens. “Utah’s citizenry is exceptionally civic minded,” says Governor Herbert. “You won’t find more generous or neighborly people anywhere, or better places to work.”

The 2012 Volunteering and Civic Life in America Report, based on Census Bureau and Labor Statistics data, found that the state ranked number one for voluntary service for the seventh consecutive year, and first in doing favors for neighbors.

Utah is also distinguished for the quality of its corporate culture. No fewer than five companies in the state were numbered among the ten best places to work in their respective categories in Outside magazine’s list of “The 30 Best Places to Work,” published in August 2012. Large Utah companies on the list included USANA Health Sciences (4th) and Clearlink (8th). Medium companies in the state included third-ranked Goal Zero and Petzl America (7th). Brainstorm ranked 10th in the small companies category.


Utah’s business vitality is buttressed by its creative, disciplined and fiscally sound governance.

Utah is a fixture among the top states for governance and fiscal management. The state ranked first in the most recent Pew Center on the States’ “Best Managed States in the Nation” study, and fourth in a 2012 24/7 Wall Street “Best and Worst Run States in the Union” report. Utah enjoys the highest credit rating from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor based on its strong, consistent fiscal management.

Utah was one of only four states—along with South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—to win the most recent Gold Shovel Award, presented in June 2012 by the publication Area Development in recognition of enlightened economic development policies that attract investment in facilities and operational expansion from companies moving into Utah and from organizations within the state.

Herbert is committed to building on Utah state government’s strong dual legacy of removing impediments to business expansion while at the same time engaging in creative, proactive economic development to foster the growth of industries with strategic importance to the state.

While many U.S. states have been awash in debt, Utah has been persistent and resourceful in finding ways to do more with fewer resources.

“I see growth taking place in every area of the private sector in Utah—from life sciences to information technology, clean energy and aerospace,” says Governor Herbert. “The sector that’s not growing in the state is government.”

During Governor Herbert’s tenure as Utah’s chief executive, while maintaining one of the nation’s fastest population growth rates, he has led a significant increase in the operational efficiency of state’s government. Since he took office, Utah has decreased its public sector employment footprint from one government employee for every 112 citizens to one for every 139. At the same time, the state has succeeded in maintaining its innovation leadership, including some of the nation’s most active, comprehensive online government services.

“We are committed to using our fundamental strengths, from effective uses of technology to public sector collaboration with industry and higher education to keep costs low and quality of service high,” said Herbert. His administration has published the lofty goal of making government 24 percent more efficient in the next four years.

To progress toward this goal, Utah’s state government has embarked on a comprehensive regulatory reform pilot project with key municipalities in four counties—South Jordan in Salt Lake County, Ogden in Weber County, Provo in Utah County and Cedar City in Iron County—to establish operational best practices that can serve as a model for cities throughout the state.

This regulatory pilot project is a major part of an ongoing, multifaceted approach to clearing away legislative and regulatory detritus that has outworn its usefulness. During his time as governor, Herbert has been a tireless champion of streamlining Utah’s regulatory framework. Thus far his administration has modified or eliminated 368 regulations that had grown obsolete and carried the potential to be a drag on the state’s economy.

“One of the greatest impediments for businesses growth is regulation that cost companies countless energy and resources needlessly,” says Herbert. “There is a need for regulations to help ensure a level playing field and to protect the public, but regulations that have outworn their usefulness are like a stagnant ditch that bogs down resources and innovation. You have to clear out the debris so money and talent can flow freely. We have an unwavering commitment to unleash the power of the market and the companies who make it go. This sends a clear message to the marketplace that Utah is open for business and will do everything in our power to create an environment that helps our companies succeed.”

Driving for Educational Excellence. To protect and nurture Utah’s compelling economic opportunities, Governor Herbert and his administration are collaborating with Utah’s education and business communities to develop a workforce with the rigorous education and training needed for the state to expand its global leadership in technology, life sciences and other high-impact industry sectors.

“Nothing is more foundational to ensuring the growth and vibrancy of Utah’s business climate than our investment in education,” says Governor Herbert. “We have some unique challenges in that we have the nation’s highest birth rate and largest family size, together with in-migration that most states don’t have, so we have an acute need to find more dollars for education and use them extremely effectively.”

The Utah Education Excellence Commission, convened by Governor Herbert, has developed an ambitious core goal to help fulfill this vision: by the year 2020, increasing the percentage of Utah adults with a college degree or post-secondary certificate from the current 42.6 percent to 66 percent.

One of the Herbert Administration’s top priorities is STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. The Governor and his team see industry as the primary end user of the students that emerge from Utah’s educational system, from high school, colleges and vocational schools. “The key to successful STEM education is workforce alignment, with industry,” says Herbert.

Industry rose to the occasion in the 2013 Utah legislative session. “We were extremely encouraged to see so many high-tech and life science executives weigh in and tell our legislators that Utah needs to create relevant education and training,” he says. “That will put us solidly on the map as a state that comes up with and employs best practices to develop scientists and engineers. This will in turn put us in a position to meet the needs of industry and to create great professional opportunities for a rapidly growing contingent of our most talented, motivated students.”

The Utah legislature responded to this clear statement from industry by funding the development of the Utah STEM Education Center. The center will serve as an incubator and clearinghouse for best practices that will be implemented in K-12, higher education and vocational settings throughout the state.

Unparalleled Quality of Life

The third trump card in Utah’s economic development hand is a quality of life unlike anywhere else.

“You can travel the world over and never find Utah’s equal when it comes to scenic beauty and recreational adventure,” says Herbert. “Our state is a playground like no other in all the four seasons.”

In the populous northern Utah, the state’s financial center, the rugged Wasatch Mountains provide residents with world-class ski resorts packed with The Greatest Snow on Earth®—a phrase that Utah has actually trademarked.

Deer Valley consistently tops the rankings of North America’s ski resorts by the readers of Ski magazine, including the 2011-12 season. Neighboring Park City Mountain Resort was named the top family vacation in 2011 and 2012 by the same publication.

In addition to its extraordinary recreational opportunities, Salt Lake City is a growing national cultural center, with a diverse mix of excellent restaurants, theaters, symphony, opera, and sports entertainment. The capital city is also a rising shopping destination. In 2012, the new City Creek Center was named “Best Retail Development in the Americas”—a geographic area that includes North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean—by the International Property Awards. The mall received this designation for its sustainable design, community collaboration, beauty, creativity and amenities.

Park City is also a global cultural hub, accelerated by its restaurants, concert venues and its status as the nerve center of the globally influential Sundance Film Festival.

Utah is home to eight National Scenic Byways, highlighted by the distinctive, spectacular Utah Highway 12. Cresting at 9,000 feet above sea level, this one of a kind All-American Road leads travelers through a diverse landscape of eye-popping scenery, from lush mountain meadows to Technicolor canyons—as well as fascinating archaeological sites—on its path between Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Southern Utah features the nation’s greatest concentration of National Parks—also known as The Mighty Five®. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion National Park are all located within a few hundred miles of one another. Bryce and Zion repeatedly top the list of favorite U.S. parks by tourists from nations throughout the world. Visitors also enjoy access to a rich array of sophisticated cultural amenities in the quaint, postcard-perfect gateway towns to these parks—including nationally-recognized restaurants and inns in Boulder, Torrey and Springdale and the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.

“The quality of life for Utah residents receives a further boost from our efforts to improve transportation infrastructure so traffic and commerce can flow freely,” says Herbert. He cites the recent Interstate 15 project, built $260 million under budget and completed faster than any other billion-dollar U.S. highway project; and the Utah Transit Authority’s commuter rail that runs from Ogden to Provo, finished two years ahead of schedule and 15 percent below budget. In the air, Salt Lake International is the nation’s top on-time airport and is less than 2.5 hours from more than half of the U.S. population.

Poised for Lasting Greatness
This trifecta of economic dynamism, top-flight governance and quality of life has Utah positioned as a national and global opportunity leader.

The state took top honors in the NBC News/Reuters “Most Livable States of the Future” Survey, published in September 2012, and in CNN Money’s forward-looking August 2012 study “The Best U.S. States to Live—in 2032.”

“It is fitting that Utah should be named as the best place for the future,” says Herbert. “This recognition only highlights what I already know—there is no place like Utah for building a life or a business. I will devote all my time and energy to helping our state fulfill its glorious promise.”