Editor’s note: This post was originally published on ksl.com, May 30, 2012.
The other day I saw a cartoon on the Internet that showed a map of California with the caption, “If you’re a Californian and you want to start a small business, there are a number of routes you can take.” The drawing had black arrows, all pointing out of the state, labeled with the Interstate numbers.
California has become the poster child for overregulation and business killing taxation. A state that has every geographic advantage has found a way to make doing business nearly impossible.
By contrast, Utah has long enjoyed a reputation as a business friendly state and decisions made by businesses and government during the economic downturn helped position us for the increased success we are seeing today.
It’s why we are attracting business from other states while California is losing them at an alarming rate.
While other states are arguing over raising taxes to meet spending commitments or cutting spending to make the budget balance, Utah has benefitted from a habit of fiscal prudence and now balances the budget while looking for the best ways to invest for future growth.
For the past decade, Utah has invested heavily and wisely in mobility infrastructure. Projects like I-15 and Legacy Parkway in Davis County, the I-15 CORE project in Utah County and the 70 miles of rail we’re building over a seven year period to make TRAX, FrontRunner and even streetcars have made it easier to get from point A to point B along the Wasatch Front. That saves people and businesses money on fuel, preserves our clean air and increases the flow of commerce. While other states face crumbling roads and bridges, we’re looking at ways to maintain those we have recently built.
Utah has also invested wisely in the industries of the future. Projects like the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative have attracted top notch researchers (and research funds) to our state while bridging the gap between research and profitable businesses. USTAR accounts for $66 million in external research funding to the state and life science and high tech tax credits foster an industry that employs 25,000 Utahns and contributes $15 billion in revenue to the state. The technologies that will drive the future economy are being developed here in our state.
As tax and regulatory burdens in other states make Utah an increasingly attractive location for businesses looking for relief, we’re stepping up our efforts to bring those jobs to our state. At the same time, the state, at the direction of Gov. Herbert, eliminated hundreds of pointless and commerce-killing regulations that served no purpose but remained on the books. That helps local business grow and puts Utahns to work.
The list of economic development “wins” is impressive. Businesses like Adobe, ATK, Overstock.com, Edwards Lifesciences, Merit Medical, and EA are investing in Utah.
Our challenge is to continue to help Utah businesses grow, to continue to attract businesses from other states and to ensure these businesses have the elements they need to grow. Most importantly, we must invest in the workforce that will power these businesses and our economy long term. Education must be among our top economic development priorities to ensure long-term prosperity.
We’re clearly heading in the right direction, but even as our job numbers out pace the nation as a whole, it will still take until later this year to regain the jobs we lost during the economic downturn.
Our progress has been slow, but we are gaining momentum. Continued investment in our workforce, a regulatory and tax environment that enables and encourages growth and resources to develop the industries that will power our economy for decades to come are all critical components to our prosperity.