SALT LAKE CITY — In 2016, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and CNBC ranked Utahas the No. 1 state in the nation for business.
States were assessed on more than 60 measures of competitiveness by a broad and diverse array of business and policy experts, official government sources and the CNBC Global CFO Council.
Utah’s No. 1 ranking is not a surprise given its long history of high-tech innovation that harkens back to WordPerfect, Novell, Ancestry.com, Omniture, Evans & Sutherland and other famous tech companies launched by Utah natives.
As the internet boomed at the turn of the 21st century, new Utah-based tech companies blossomed, blanketing the Wasatch Front from Utah County to Weber County. Nicknamed the “Silicon Slopes,” this area’s reputation is fast approaching that of Silicon Valley as a high-tech hotbed of growth and innovation.
Currently, there are over 4,338 tech companies operating in Utah and more than 53,000 active job positions. According to Utah.gov, 8.6 percent of Utah’s workforce is employed by a tech organization with payrolls accounting for 14.3 percent of Utah resident income.
Utah competes favorably when compared with rival locations like Boston, New York, Seattle or Silicon Valley. Utah's low tax rate of 6.69 percent; affordable real estate; highly educated and motivated talent pools from the University of Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young University, and a business-friendly environment make Utah a top pick for tech organizations.
Utah’s affordable real estate and world-class outdoor recreation is also a strong draw for businesses looking to lure out-of-state talent — and a big incentive for local talent to stay. A home in Utah averages five times the size of one in San Francisco or New York at a fraction of the cost.
Utah’s exceptional university programs that feed directly into the local workforce are enticing as well. These programs have proven track records, giving birth to the careers of tech-giants like Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics, Inc.; John Warnock, a co-founder of Adobe; Alan Ashton, co-founder of WordPerfect and Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar.
BYU was the first university in the U.S. to gain official accreditation for its information technology programs in 2008 and continues to maintain its leading edge in partnerships with organizations like Special Interest Group for Information Technology Education.
As a sign of Utah’s core commitment to technological growth, in 2015, state legislators approved $18.5 million to support research teams at Utah State University and the University of Utah and an additional $2.54 million was set aside for technology outreach and innovation.