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Making the list: Why Utah cities are getting noticed

Some regions are known for fostering business growth. Think Northern California, the upper Pacific Northwest, or the metro areas of central Texas.

The Beehive State, though, can count itself among those providing a great business climate. In fact, respected national think-tank The Milken Institute recently chose three Utah areas for the top-10 of its annual list of top-performing cities.

What Provo-Orem (at No. 1), Salt Lake City (No. 4) and Ogden-Clearfield (No. 9) share are some traits that are huge catalysts for business success: above-average job and wage growth, affordable housing costs, and superior access to broadband. Interestingly, larger areas like San Francisco and Orlando didn’t make the top 10.

To go more in-depth on the annual Milken list, Utah Business magazine recently spoke to state economic experts to find out why these three Utah areas did so well.

For new businesses wanting to experience some of this growth, it’s possible that a small-business loan may be a great pathway. At First Utah Bank, we’re able to help business owners determine if such a loan is a good fit for them and their goals.

In growth mode

Behind some of the success of Provo, SLC and Ogden might be location, location, location. Natalie Gochnour, director of the Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, believes that being in the center of the Mountain West is a definite advantage for Utah.

“That makes us the health center and the distribution center, and a seat of government at least in the case of Salt Lake City,” Gochnour said. “We’ve always been a growth state. It’s our constant companion. But the last couple of years have put an exclamation point on all of it.”

Keith Morey, who is Provo City’s director of economic development, said that Utah is starting to recognize more what others around the country are starting to see as far as advantages.

“This is true as they experience difficulties operating in other areas, where access to qualified employee talent is difficult to find, where costs of living are high, where crime is soaring, and access to outdoor amenities like we have aren’t as proximate,” Morey said. “People just start recognizing what we have.”

New players and seasoned hands

While attributes such as natural beauty and quality of life are definitely reasons that Morey believes Milken is sold on Provo, he also thinks it’s the expansion of people into other cities in Utah that’s a big factor.

“The whole Silicon Slopes area has really built out quite a bit,” Morey said. “And so I think those people start to look for opportunities that are close but don’t maybe have the same levels of congestion or competition that you have maybe in the Silicon Slopes area in Lehi. Provo becomes a natural result of that.”

Even the more dense SLC saw a huge spike — moving from No. 25 to No. 4 on the list. Morey agrees with others in the article that Salt Lake City’s role as a standard-bearer with the necessary factors for success has led to its high marks.

“We’ve had a really strong fiscal approach to government for decades,” Morey said. “That adds a level of stability that a lot of other states and cities don’t necessarily have. Historically because we’ve been so well managed, we can do things that other states can’t do. We’re not as impeded by excess debt and high taxes and things of that sort. That lends some freedom that a lot of places don’t have.”

Ogden is acknowledged in the article as “the most surprising,” although deeper analysis shows that its focus on manufacturing, the aerospace industry and adaptive tech have led to a boom. Tom Christopulos, economic development director for Ogden City, said that his city has been in and around Milken’s top-20 for more than 10 years.

“The growth in the last year is just the rate of growth that you see in those industries; the manufacturing, the aerospace, and related fields, all of that of pushing us up a level,” he said. “The other thing that’s happening is, as more and more of Salt Lake fills in and Utah County fills in, there have to be places for businesses to locate and react.”

SBA loans to bridge the gap

Being ready for rapid change, or right on the cusp of it, can be a big boost to any business, especially in a high-growth state like Utah. If your business is newer, though, there may be some extra challenges. First Utah Bank can help young companies hit next-level success with loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Your hometown bank is the preferred lender for SBA loans in Utah, and we have a department built solely for this type of loan. SBA specialists at First Utah Bank can help you every step of the way. Such finding can be a viable option for business owners when traditional or conventional bank financing is hard to obtain or isn’t available. Among the most common uses for an SBA loan include:

  • Refinancing debt that is maturing
  • Consolidating debt to bring in more money
  • Managing cash flow during peak buying seasons
  • Buying machinery, fixtures and equipment
  • Buying an existing business
  • Purchasing inventory or receivables
  • Buying or building an owner-occupied commercial building
  • Expanding or refurbishing facilities in order to modernize them
  • Adding to working capital (a term loan or line of credit)
  • Money for leasehold improvements
  • Starting expenses for a franchise or a new business
  • Financing exports

As your business continues to evolve, First Bank Utah can be there to offer advice, whether related to a SBA loan or any other banking need. Find out more about what we have to offer at our website, or call us at 801-308-2265.