In a Nutshell: Amid its natural beauty, Utah fosters a rich and diverse business culture. The state gives special attention to the financial services and fintech industries — innovative sectors where the state’s young population can contribute energy and fresh ideas. Utah’s thriving business sector is due in part to the state government’s business-friendly philosophy, including low tax rates and incentive programs. And to help alleviate small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has launched the Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program. Because of its business-friendly policies and thriving financial services sector, we’re recognizing Utah with our Editor’s Choice™ Award as a Top State for Making a Career Move.
Many professionals are always looking out for the right opportunity that offers a path to success while maintaining a nice work-life balance. And entrepreneurs, with their innovative spirits, are on the hunt for communities that can foster and grow their business ideas.
Utah may just be the perfect place for all of the above.
Whether folks are hitting the slopes in Park City or taking in the breathtaking vistas on a Zion National Park hike, Utah is known for its diverse geography and beautiful natural attractions. What people may not realize, however, is that The Beehive State is also abuzz with an impressive business community that fosters innovation in a wide range of industries.
In fact, Utah frequently ranks among the top states in the country for business, careers, personal income growth, family prosperity, and quality of life, according to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
The office attributes these achievements to a combination of business-friendly policies, collaboration, and innovation.
This mix of qualities has led to Utah being home to booming fintech and financial services communities while making a name for itself in other areas such as life sciences, energy, recreation, and IT — think Silicon Slopes.
Because of its ripe business and economic opportunities combined with its natural wonders and quality of life, we’re recognizing the state of Utah with our Editor’s Choice™ Award as a Top State for Making a Career Move.
We recently spoke with Val Hale, Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, about the state’s business-friendly policies as well as how it is supporting businesses in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Young Population Helps Drive a Booming Fintech Sector
“We have the youngest population in America, and one of the fastest-growing populations,” Hale said. “Where other states have been trying to keep with the out-migration of people, we’ve had the opposite issue in keeping up with our natural growth.”
Hale said part of this skew toward young people is due to the state’s outdoor amenities.
“We’ve become a bit of a hipster place in terms of young people who love the outdoors,” he said. “We like to say that Mother Nature played favorites with Utah. We’ve got these five incredible national parks here, the red rock country of southern Utah, and the mountains of northern Utah — ‘the greatest snow on earth.’”
Many folks in Utah can go from work to play within 15 minutes with nature right outside their offices and homes, Hale said.
This is all to say that Utah’s economy is supported in part by a vibrant, young culture that also lends itself to innovation in its financial services and fintech industry.
“Fintech is really booming here in the state,” Hale said.
Utah’s financial services industry is the state’s largest and fastest-growing key industry, according to the office website. It is home to 47 banking institutions valued at nearly $600 billion. And the state is home to approximately 68 credit unions totaling $22.4 billion.
“Thanks especially to a growing technology industry, Utah also punches above its weight in venture capital and deal flow growth,” according to the Office of Economic Development.
SoFi, Prosper, Snap Finance, MX, Entrata, Zip Books, Varo Money, and Earnest are just a few of the startups and booming companies that anchor the state’s fintech ecosystem, according to the office.
How the State’s Policies and Initiatives are Aimed at Cultivating and Sustaining Businesses
“Our governor’s motto is, ‘I want to keep government off your back and out of your wallet,’” Hale said. “That’s what he says over and over again, and fortunately, our legislature has the same philosophy.”
He said the government strives to make the state as business-friendly as possible, with regulations that are sufficient but not overbearing and a low tax rate.
“We just try to make it so that a business can thrive here,” Hale said. “And we are the number one state according to multiple sources for entrepreneurship in America.”
“Here, in Utah, capitalism is a positive thing,” he explained. “We admire people who put their capital at risk and take an idea and try to figure out a way to commercialize it. And we hire people who can do that and make money and create jobs and create wealth with it.”
Hale said Utah also maintains a strong incentive program to attract businesses to the state.
“Whether growing from within or recruiting targeted industry firms, Utah continues to lead the nation with its business-friendly environment,” according to the office website. “Corporate Recruitment provides financial incentives for local and out-of-state companies seeking to expand or relocate to Utah.”
Incentives — offered in the form of tax credit rebates or grants — are available to select companies that create new, high-paying jobs that improve quality of life, increase the tax base, and diversity the economy.
About 30% of Utah’s incentivized businesses are from within the state, according to the office.
The Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program is Designed to Help in Times of Crisis
As the U.S. strives to manage the health of its citizens and its economy, Utah is helping to bring some relief to businesses potentially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with its Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program.
“We think that if we can get through this interim period where the federal government aid can start coming in, we can get through this in the long run because our economy is fundamentally sound,” Hale said.
The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development is offering this bridge loan program to Utah-based small businesses and nonprofits, impacted by the pandemic, with 50 or fewer employees.
Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $20,000 with 0% interest for up to 60-month period, according to the website.
“The Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan program uses $11 million in state funds to provide gap funding to Utah’s small businesses,” according to the office.
Potential uses for the loans include working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgages, utilities, and other expenses that may occur in the normal course of operations.
“We wanted to help these companies get money immediately and hopefully help them survive,” Hale said. “Like everyone else, we’re dealing with scenarios we’re not used to but we’ve got to adapt and adjust.”
A total of 1,031 completed the application process, for the round 1 April 3 deadline, according to a press release.
“As soon as contracts are completed, which GOED expects to take one-to-two business days, it will begin mailing checks,” according to the announcement. “A total of $6,105,500 was awarded in round one, leaving $4,894,500 available for Utah small businesses and nonprofits in round two. 27% of round one funds were awarded to rural businesses.”
Round 2 applications, which will be open from April 13 to April 16 will be open to Utah nonprofit organizations as well.
Even through a time of crisis, Utah, of course, retains its natural beauty, and appears to be poised to retain its bustling business culture as well. For those looking for a place to grow their next big idea or set up shop in a business-friendly state, Utah may be well worth serious consideration.