Any major economic crisis has a tabula rasa effect, with businesses, investors and individuals pausing to consider big changes. Some will roll out a map of the United States to seek greener pastures. Some of them will decide to place their chips on Utah. Many current Utah residents will just double down.
That makes sense, because this state is among the safest of bets. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. Utah has strong social capital. The term “social capital” refers to the networks of relationships within a society, particularly those that promote successful outcomes for individuals benefiting from those connections and for the society as a whole. Emerging Utah Foundation research suggests that Utah compares favorably both regionally and nationally in our initial comparisons of factors contributing to civic engagement, social trust, participation in community life, family health, social cohesion, a focus on future generations and social mobility.
2. This remains the land of opportunity. Research from Harvard economists put the Salt Lake metro as No. 1 in the nation in terms of intergenerational upward mobility. Those at the bottom end of the income scale have a better shot here of making it to the top.
3. Utah is a safe port in stormy waters. Economic activity is drawn to certainty and stability. Government corruption, economic mismanagement and social instability repel investment. Utah, by contrast, offers predictability, stability and a business-friendly policy environment. Being transparent helps, too.
4. We have a smart, young population. Not only is Utah the nation’s youngest state, it is also one of the most highly educated, per capita — providing a highly skilled workforce for businesses looking to relocate or expand. Utah’s higher ed institutions have been churning out entrepreneurs in Silicon Slopes, the biotech industry and beyond. A recent Forbes analysis put Utah at No. 1 in the nation for entrepreneurs.
5. We’ve taken hits and are standing tall. As Utah Foundation highlighted in a recent release, Utah had the lowest proportion of unemployed as a percentage of its workforce by mid-May. Another release highlighted findings that the Salt Lake region fared best among 40 large metros on year over year employment.
6. We’re planning smart and thinking big. At the dawn of the crisis, the state launched the Utah Leads Together effort. There was no infighting or chaos, and planners immediately recognized the need to form a baseline plan, then adjust to a rapidly changing situation. Civic leaders are also taking this moment to push forward on key efforts to improve our economy and quality of life over the long-term (an effort on which Utah Foundation has assisted).
7. We have a diversified economy. The latest analysis using the Hachman Index of economic diversity put Utah at No. 1 in the nation.
8. Small businesses (and lenders) are taking care of business. Survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals Utah small businesses have been the least affected in the nation. As of May 16, Utah ranked No. 1 in federal Payroll Protection Program loans as a percentage of payroll.
9. We aren’t shooting ourselves in the foot. Other state governments have become engulfed in paralyzing political division and crippling financial mismanagement. Utah has managed its finances and public pensions fairly well, and has managed to get important things done.
10. The quality of life is excellent. Utah is situated in a Goldilocks location — not too cold and not too hot with low humidity. It’s one of the sunniest places in the U.S., with endless opportunities for exploration across four seasons — from National Parks to ski resorts. And there is still a comparably reasonable cost of living.
At the moment, all of this may be cold comfort to those struggling with job or income losses. But, relatively speaking, there’s much reason for hope.
This op-ed was originally published in the Deseret News on June 10, 2020.