Utah has just been named Forbes "Best State for Business" for the third consecutive year.
What's happening for the Beehive State to receive this singular honor? And, most importantly, how can other communities get these advantages too?
Since 2006, Utah's economy has expanded at an annual rate of 2.3 percent, compared to 0.5 percent for the nation as a whole. Gov. Gary Herbert, who was reelected with 68 percent of the vote last year, attributes this to a fertile environment for entrepreneurs and business.
Herbert cites three areas where Utah has a competitive advantage: taxes, labor force and a favorable regulatory climate.
First, Utah's 5 percent flat corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the country. The Tax Foundation, which released a study in February 2012 that measures the tax burdens in each state across different industries, rated Utah sixth best for existing firms.
Second, Utah has a young, vibrant workforce. The state's median age of 29 is four years younger than Texas, the next-youngest state. A third of the state's workforce is bilingual, according to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah. The state's language ability is an attractive benefit for companies in an increasingly global economy, and has helped lure large U.S. companies with international operations, such as eBay, Goldman Sachs, Oracle and Procter & Gamble.
Third, Utah ranks third for a positive regulatory climate in the Mercatus Center's Freedom in the 50-state study -- a new metric in the Best States study.
"Utah is less likely to reward frivolous lawsuits or to hand out excessive judgments," says Jason Sorens, who co-authored the report. "Utah's health insurance regulations are generally light, resulting in less costly policies and more choice for people in the small group and individual markets."
Last year, Herbert initiated a review of the state's nearly 2,000 administrative rules. The state eliminated or modified 368 of them that he characterized as "a drag on the economy."
Among the other pluses for Utah are energy costs that are 29 percent below the national average. It is also one of only seven states to maintain an AAA bond rating from the three rating agencies -- something the U.S., as a nation, lost last year.
Lastly, Utah is proud of its Olympic-level ski resorts, its urban attractions and its acclaimed status as the safest state in the nation.
What else is Utah doing that has propelled it to the top of the leader board for new business? Without question, Utah prospers because of a unified purpose and effort across all contributing economic entities.
Community leaders, from education to government, work harmoniously together to solve problems and to maximize powerful growth opportunities.
For example, I attend on a regular basis a gathering of local leaders with one thought on their collective minds -- job creation for the residents of Northern Utah. It's similar in nature to what's happening in Salt Lake City and in communities across the state.
Gathered around the table on a monthly basis are the president of the Chamber of Commerce, the president of the university, the school district superintendents, county commissioners, the mayor, the president of the technology college, successful business leaders -- both large and small -- bankers, entrepreneurs, a spokesman for the military base, area economic development directors and local angel investors and venture capitals.
Topics include what each organization is doing to support, encourage and actively foment business (recruitment, existing and entrepreneurial) growth with conversations on how these various entities can work together to remove barriers, improve communications and achieve measurable results.
It has become clear to this high-powered committee that, to build a robust and thriving local economy, it must talk to its customers first. To this end, the committee invites aspiring entrepreneurs and human resource managers from area firms in high-growth industries and companies being recruited to a meeting to learn what key resources they might need. This includes the type of workers they will be hiring in the future, how many they will need and what skills workers will need to possess.
All leaders work together in a seamless, collaborative fashion to help growing business obtain the correct resources at the right time.
Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is the Chairman of the Utah Technology Council.