Utah Wins in the Trenches

As every football analyst will say, great teams win games in the trenches. The most important battles take place at the line of scrimmage where blocking and tackling are as important as a head coach’s vision and his ability to make the right play-call at the right time. Utah’s economic success is due to the same ability to work at the fundamental level, says Michael Sullivan, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Director of Communications. Sullivan equates Utah’s strategy under Governor Herbert to Lombardi-like football strategies.

“It’s just like football,” Sullivan says. “Its not about the glory passes. It’s blocking and tackling.”

Sullivan goes on to explain that a fiscally conservative approach is crucial to Utah’s success, especially during a time when every state is recovering from an economic downturn. Utah spends wisely, keeps rainy day funds, refuses to enter into debt without corollary cash flows—“and the list goes on and on.”

The state paid for its recent reconstruction of the I-80 highway this way and maintains a triple-A bond rating, one of only four states in the nation to do so for the last 40 years. This helps all businesses, keeping borrowing rates low. “Utah has long been regarded as a safe haven for business investment,” says Michael O’Malley, Director of Marketing. Utah’s highly diverse economy—which excels in science, energy information technology, advanced composites, aviation, aerospace, financial services, and outdoor products—has been ranked as the sixth most diverse in the nation. Diversity, says O’Malley, has allowed the state to weather financial storms.

Other ways in which Utah succeeds in the trenches include the state’s ability to get new businesses off the ground. Utah offers abundant resources to new and growing businesses, including corporate incentives and financing for both in-state ideas and in-state growth originating from beyond Utah’s borders. The state corporate tax hasn’t risen in fifteen years, while post-performance tax rebates exist for companies that create a significant number of jobs.

Utah is also conducive to international expansion: it’s the most linguistically diverse state in the union, with, according to University of Utah research,  over 130 languages spoken in business daily. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development works to improve international sales—using contacts overseas, international trade and diplomacy offices, and the World Trade Center of Utah—to expand export business and broaden the state’s infrastructure.

Lastly, the day-to-day lives of Utah’s people may be the best indicators of Utah’s success at the most basic levels. The US Census Bureau ranked Utahns sixth in the nation for lowest obesity rates, sixth in standard of living, first in lack of smoking, and first in healthy employee-supervisor relationships. 90 percent graduated from high school. “We have a young, healthy workforce that is well educated,” says O’Malley. “So when the big companies like Boeing or eBay come around looking for a workforce, we have a good story to tell them.”

Ryan Kunz, Matthew Simmons, and Ty Kilgore contributed to this post. Ryan, Matt and Ty work at a Utah-based website design company, where they cooperate with programmers to create quality content and lend their skills to clients who need writing, search engine optimization, web design, or graphic design.