Why Utah thinks it will soon eclipse Silicon Valley

From 2013 to 2014, venture capital dollars in Utah grew by nearly double the national rate.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Jumper | Photodisc | Getty Images
Salt Lake City, Utah

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2015 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.

Utah is America's best place for business because Utahns make it their business to succeed—and we have the track record to prove it.

In Utah one word sums up our business prowess: investment. Simply put, we know we can't have long-term economic growth and maintain Utah's enviable quality of life without making some critical investments.

First and foremost among these is an ongoing investment in education. In Utah we concur with Benjamin Franklin, who said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

We understand how important an educated and skilled workforce is to economic success. That's why I have worked with state lawmakers to invest more new money in education during my administration than any other in Utah's history, including $1.3 billion over the past four years.

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As important as funding education is, it's even more important to make each and every dollar count by setting benchmarks for what we will achieve with that investment. So I'm working with stakeholders across a broad spectrum to develop a strategic plan to ensure every dollar we invest in education helps secure long-term economic growth and optimal educational opportunities for all Utahns.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert
Source: Office of the Governor
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert
"Another critical investment we are making is our unflinching focus on the fundamentals that govern economic success, such as getting government off your back and out of your wallet."

We are also investing significantly in our infrastructure.

Without sufficient roads, bus, rail and other options, Utah's economy would be stuck in neutral or slip into reverse. To keep Utah's economic engine humming, we have invested $5 billion in transportation over the past decade and have ensured we will have sufficient funds to keep commerce flowing in Utah for decades to come.

Two of our recent investments—a major commuter rail project and alight-rail spur to Salt Lake City International Airport—were completed two years ahead of schedule and a combined $340 million under budget. Another 225 projects scheduled for 2015 are now—or soon will be—under way. And the airport itself is in the midst of a $1.78 billion complete rebuild to be completed in 2022.

Utah is known as the "Crossroads of the West," and we are confident our investment in a first-class transportation system that is second to none will keep it that way.

The next Silicon Valley

Another critical investment we are making is our unflinching focus on the fundamentals that govern economic success, such as getting government off your back and out of your wallet, sensible regulations, living within our means, saving for a rainy day, and limited and efficient government, just to name a few.

As a result, Utah's economy is the envy of the nation. Our unemployment rate is the third lowest in the nation, and our private-sector job growth rate is the highest in the nation. Utah also has developed the fourth most diverse economy in the country and has been recognized as the No. 1 state in America for upward mobility.

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For all Utah's success, we are not satisfied.

It's not enough for just us to invest in Utah; more and more we are encouraging businesses around the world to follow suit. We want them to invest in and become part of Utah's future, and to allow Utah to invest and become part of theirs.

From 2013 to 2014, venture capital dollars in Utah grew by nearly double the national rate, and we now outrank Silicon Valley in the average amount of money invested per deal. That caught the attention of The New Yorker magazine, which recently published an article that proclaimed Utah "the next Silicon Valley."

Wherever we go, our message to the national and international business community is the same: Now, more than ever, Utah is the place to invest and to do business.

—By Utah Gov. Gary Herbert