Utah is abuzz with business activity. Economy is the state's strongest category in our study, ranking No. 3 with good reason. GDP grew 2.8 percent last year — the third-highest rate in the nation. Consumer spending is strong, and we found the housing market to be among the nation's healthiest.
A key to Utah's success is its robust technology sector, concentrated in the area in and around Salt Lake City that has come to be known as Silicon Slopes. The branding campaign is aimed at helping Utah tech companies share knowledge and resources and attracting capital to the region. On the latter point the state has some work to do.
Utah finishes 24th for Access to Capital, its worst category. Utah businesses attracted an impressive $732 million in venture capital last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association, placing the state in the top tier nationally. But small-business lending lags the rest of the country. It does, however, outpace most of Utah's neighbors.
To be sure, the economic expansion in Utah has not been without critics. Gov. Herbert, seeking his second full term as governor this year, beat back a Republican primary challenge last month by Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson, who accused Herbert of trying to pick winners and losers instead of empowering business as a whole.
In the general election, Democrat Mike Weinholtz, chairman of the privately held medical staffing firm CHG Healthcare Services, has criticized the quality of the new jobs.
"Gov. Herbert likes to tout the number of jobs that we have, but we don't have enough high-paying jobs that pay a living wage," Weinholtz said during a recent campaign appearance.