ST. GEORGE – Being a great place for business, being fiscally prudent and an overall spirit of collaboration are among the reasons Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah continues to be ranked among the top performing economies in the nation.
Herbert spoke at the “2018 Business Summit” hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
“You all know this, you don’t need me to tell you, but Utah is a wonderful place,” he said. “We’re having tremendous success.”
Before listing the reasons why he believes Utah has one of the best state economies, the governor noted how much St. George has changed and how well its own economy appears to be doing.
Washington County’s current unemployment rate is around 3.6 percent compared to the overall state’s 3.1 percent, according the latest numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“What we see taking place here, the growth and prosperity here in the St. George area, is remarkable,” Herbert said. “You’ve broadened your tax base and your business base and are diversifying. That means your future will be more stable than ever before.”
Earlier this year the St. George area was ranked as the fastest-growing metro area in the United States by the U.S. Census Bureau with a 4 percent increase in population between 2016 and 2017, moving the population up to over 165,000.
St. George has become a “destination of choice” for many people, Herbert said.
Other state governors, along with President Donald Trump, have each asked why Utah is doing so well, Herbert said. The governor then shared the factors he believes have helped promote Utah’s economic success.
Great place for business
Utah is a great place for business, Herbert said.
It has been rated as one of the top business-friendly states by Forbes Magazine for the last decade.
Utah is a great place to start, grow and expand a business, Herbert said, and credited one of the reasons for this being a competitive tax rate. The state wants to make sure business owners keep more of their money, he said.
“We want to empower the private sector,” he said.
Other reasons Herbert gave include Utah’s having an efficient government, regulation reform and a labor force that is attractive to companies looking to move into Utah.
“We’re young, the median age in the state is about 30 years,” he said, “We’re high-tech savvy, we’re a productive culture, we have a great work ethic (and) we’re bilingual. We have have the work force the entrepreneurs and companies are looking for.”
Utah has been ranked as the most financially-stable state by U.S. News and World Report, Herbert said, adding that it’s due to the state government “living within its means.”
“You shouldn’t buy what you can’t afford.” Herbert said that belief is practiced by state government and the people of Utah.
People in Utah know how to live within their means, the governor said. They don’t spend more than they take in, they don’t live with unreasonable debt and they save for a rainy day.
“That really is the culture of Utah and that results in Utah being one of only nine states with a AAA bond rating.”
Utah’s own rainy-day fund is currently around $600 million, Herbert said.
“Really, that’s the American dream: the ability for someone to come to this country…because they know they have an opportunity here to improve their lives economically compared to where they came from,” the governor said.
In Utah, the American dream is alive and well, Herbert said, referencing a 2017 report from Bloomberg titled “How Utah Keeps the American Dream Alive.”
The chances of moving up the economic ladder are better in Utah than any other state of the county, Herbert said.
Utah also has one of the largest middle classes in America, he said.
Cooperation and collaboration
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked Utah as one of the most enterprising states. The reason? The state’s overall spirit of cooperation and collaboration that is found a “greater abundance” in Utah than anywhere else, Herbert said.
“That’s the secret to our success,” he said.
While the federal government and the rest of the country are seemingly divided and unable to come together, Utah and its people are able to work together to resolve the issues, the governor said.
Herbert pointed to the Utah Legislature as an example. Over 500 bills were passed during the latest session with around 90 percent passed unanimously by state Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
“Most of the stuff we deal with is common sense,” Herbert said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, independent or what you want to be, most of the solutions come from common sense and working together, and we’re good at doing that here.”
It is mainly because of the people of Utah that the state is doing so well, Herbert said.
“It really comes from the people themselves,” he said. “Good principles, good values, and consequently we elect people who reflect that, which means we get good policy that produces good outcomes.”
Herbert then spoke of the future and what is holds for St. George and Utah overall.
People have a lot to be optimistic about, he said, pointing out that the state’s household income has gone up by 21 percent over the past five years.
“Not only our we creating jobs and economic opportunity, but the jobs are paying more… There’s no reason not to be optimistic, especially in this great part of our state,” Hebert said.
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