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Whether it’s the interstate or the information superhighway, the Beehive State’s infrastructure has what it takes to keep businesses buzzing, and the Utah Legislature is maintaining its investment in roads and IT to ensure that companies continue to find a business-friendly landscape.
Almost three-quarters of Utah homes are equipped with broadband, according to a 2010 U.S. Department of Commerce Report. In addition to making Utah the national leader in this area, it also bodes well for businesses.
“Where there are higher speeds available for residential services, there are higher speeds available for businesses, too,” says Tara Thue, Manager of the Utah Broadband Project.
The project is a joint effort between the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), the Public Services Commission and the Department of Technology Services’ Automated Geographic Reference Center. Started two years ago, the project is meant to develop a map of broadband services available in Utah and to devise a plan to increase broadband throughout the State.
Currently, Utah is second in the nation for gigabit-to-the-home broadband download speeds, with 95 percent of Utahns having access to download speeds of more than 6Mbps, according to the 2011 National Broadband Map.
“What we’ve found since we’ve been doing the mapping is that Utah is highly deployed with broadband services,” Thue says. “It’s pretty uncommon that you can put a pin on any city on our map and not have some broadband service there.”
That’s critical for attracting high-tech businesses, says Richard Nelson, president and CEO of the Utah Technology Council. “You can never have enough broadband access and speed. It drives opportunity. Fortunately, we’re a state that is very internet savvy.”
This is a discovery that’s already been made by companies such as Adobe, eBay and Oracle. “A lot of businesses—especially tech-related businesses—are coming to Utah because of the broadband infrastructure we have in place,” Thue points out. “It is well-equipped to handle high capacity, especially the Wasatch Front area. Companies are able to build facilities and get the connectivity they need through connections that are already available.”
“Workforce is probably the No. 1 business resource that we bring to the table,” says Jeff Edwards, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah).
Gary Harter, Managing Director of Business Outreach and International Trade at GOED, agrees, saying that when he talks to CEOs about why they are locating their companies in Utah, “one of the top two things they tell us is the workforce.”
About 30,000 people are employed in Utah’s IT industry in companies such as Novell, which began in Provo in 1979, and Iomega, which has been in Roy since 1998. A year after Adobe acquired Omniture in 2009 and chose to retain the offices in Orem, it announced plans to build a new technology campus in Utah, which has the potential to add 1,000 jobs or more to the workforce over the next 20 years.
“That is terrific for Utah; it puts us on the map that we are continuing to be a place for IT companies,” Harter says.
But more than that, the State’s renowned entrepreneurial drive fuels new technologies, new startups and new partnerships. “One of the reasons that companies come to Utah is because we … continue to develop the entrepreneurial spirit throughout the State,” Harter says. That innovation pays off: While Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture is the most recent IT headline in Utah, numerous other startups also have been successful. The State encourages this entrepreneurial spirit through technology commercialization and innovation programs as well as business resource centers throughout the State.
Beyond the well-educated and productive workforce, CEOs are attracted to Utah because of the low costs of doing business, with affordable real estate, low cost utilities, and high-quality and reasonably priced telecom.
“Having been actively involved with economic development for over 20 years, Utah’s highly competitive cost structure, especially in energy costs, continues to differentiate us as a top state for business and careers, as Forbes has identified the last two years,” says UTC’s Nelson, referring to Forbes magazine’s listing of Utah as the Best State for Business because of its energy costs and 5 percent corporate tax rate, among other benefits. “It’s one of our major competitive advantages to have our energy costs at such an attractive level.”