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Utah cities among top U.S. economic performers

Published: 12/15/2011
By Tom Harvey, The Salt Lake Tribune -- When it comes to measuring how well cities nationally and in the region are functioning in today's challenging economy, Utah metro areas are among the tops, two new reports show.

The Ogden-to-Provo metropolitan corridor placed three cities in the Top 15 in economic activity among a list of the nation's "Best Performing" metro areas, and Logan was the No. 1 small city.

Salt Lake City was No. 6, Provo-Orem No. 9 and Ogden-Clearfield No. 15 on the Milken Institute's 2011 index released Thursday.

After Texas, which placed four metro areas in the Top 10, Utah was the only other state with more than one city in the Top 25. Utah has a diverse technology sector seeded by major universities, a quality lifestyle and low relative costs, said Kevin Klowden, an economist and director of the Milken Center in California.

"Utah has done a very nice job of establishing itself as capturing the California alternative in terms of tech," he said. "In proportion to its population, Utah has done very well. ... It's positioned itself fairly well in terms of what you get for your money."

The Monitor, part of an index of economic measures in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas compiled by the Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said manufacturing and state and local government jobs accounted for that growth. But Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings, said the state also benefits from the diversity of its economy.

"The Utah metropolitan areas, especially Provo and Ogden but Salt Lake as well, are seeing a fairly robust recovery now," said Muro, also pointing out the state was less involved in the real estate bubble that burst and helped lead to the recession, which began in late 2007 and officially lasted about 2½ years but whose effects are still being felt.

"The Utah metropolitan areas epitomize or exemplify the benefits of diversification and the importance of technology in manufacturing and innovation," he said.

The Milken Institute report included these findings for Utah metro areas:

Salt Lake City: Went from 49th to sixth overall in the 2011 index. Notably it ranked in the top tier for its high-tech diversity, with a concentration of pharmaceuticals, medical device, transportation equipment, computer design component and data-processing services. Milken said it has the 12th most diverse mix of high-tech industries in the nation.

To read the complete Salt Lake Tribune article by Tom Harvey...