Nestled in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounded by ski country impressive enough to be host to the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City ranked as the number-one large Mountain city this year. Although Salt Lake City has the amenities of a burgeoning metropolis, locals may be more inclined to speak of the beautiful landscape and educational opportunities. And entrepreneurs, of course, follow their lead with tourism and high-tech companies.
In a move that affected a range of industries, the Utah legislature passed a research tax credit last year--a boon to Salt Lake City, which has thriving information technology, software development and biotechnology industries. Industry giants like Gateway Inc., which opened a 1,200-employee computer manufacturing facility in September, are also drawn to this tech-friendly area, providing small businesses with subcontracting opportunities. For those who gravitate outside the research-lab arena, Salt Lake City has a $2 billion tourism industry that flourishes in the local ski resorts and Utah's five national parks.
But with growth comes some internal problems. A $1.6 billion reconstruction of Interstate 15 and a new light-rail system is currently in the works. Fortunately, although the state hovers at a 3.2 percent unemployment rate, it also boasts one of the most educated work forces in the country. Because capital can be problematic, with many venture capitalists specializing in particular industries, many small businesses get started the old-fashioned way, with the help of relatives, friends and credit cards.
Salt Lake City knows how to exploit its natural resources: an educated workforce, a booming tourism industry, and low business costs. With this kind of inspiration, we're waiting to see how much gold the United States--and Salt Lake City small businesses--will bring home in 2002.