I’ve written a few posts recently about the lure of schools in Utah County. An underlying assumption behind these posts is that people are, in fact, moving to Utah from other states. That assumption seems to be supported by population booms past and present.
But what if Utah and Provo could do much, much better at drawing people from other states. The Atlantic recently reported on efforts in Indiana to steal jobs from California. The idea is that California is expensive and hostile to businesses, while Indiana is not.
But the same could be said for Utah. In fact, while Indiana is a struggling old Rust Belt state, Utah is a young, educated and entrepreneurial region. If you read much about cities and the economy, you’ll notice that the media’s narrative about Utah focuses on ascendancy and the future — sort of like a BRIC nation. On the other hand, the narrative about places like Indiana is about decline and, at best, resurgence.
The result is that Utah is actually a much better place for businesses to relocate than Indiana, or almost anywhere for that matter. And of course, businesses are coming to Utah; just drive past Thanksgiving Point and you’ll see their buildings rising higher every day.
But the Atlantic article shows how overt, public marketing can be used to lure jobs to the area. This is a zero-sum strategy for the national economy, so local innovation and growth is still important, but if jobs are migrating somewhere, they might as well go to Utah.
In the end, Provo has fewer resources than the entire state of Indiana, but to some extent it could employ similar tactics to bring jobs to the city.