Regional Report: The West

MontanaUtah (No. 13)
Utah’s economy continues to expand. The state’s $111.8 billion dollar GDP grew at a 3.4 percent clip last year, a Rocky Mountain high. Durable-goods manufacturing accounted for nearly a third of the increase. Utah dominates many state business-climate rankings, topping the ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index seven consecutive years. Still, local leaders worry about underfinanced education, lack of church-state separation and the need for tougher environmental controls. “Some people have problems with the Mormon influence,” says consultant Foote. Utah’s tax burden ranks 23rd lowest out of 50 states, and the state ranks ninth in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index. Utah spends at least $207 million per year on incentive programs, predominantly sales tax refunds, exemptions or other discounts, as stated by The New York Times. Top incentives go to manufacturers, in particular, aerospace concerns.

Colorado (No. 16)
Legalization of marijuana brought the state much attention, new revenue expectations and anecdotal accounts of higher, inbound migration. Such factors as proximity to California; a well-educated workforce; Greater Denver’s public transportation system; and integrated rail, road and airport connections exert appeal. “The natural environment and recreational opportunities are huge plusses,” says Howard Gelt, real estate attorney and State Economic Development Commission member. State GDP is $258 billion. Government has targeted advanced manufacturing, bioscience, defense, energy and agriculture, as well as such creative fields as design and publishing. Colorado’s 6.2 percent March unemployment rate surpassed the national average, 6.7 percent. Jobs grew at a 3 percent rate last year, outpacing predictions. Colorado’s tax burden ranks 19th lowest out of the 50 states, and the state ranks 19th on the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate. Colorado spends at least $995 million per year on incentive programs, predominantly on sales tax refunds, exemptions or other sales tax discounts, per the The New York Times. Top incentives go to manufacturers and agricultural interests.

Wyoming (No. 18)
Wyoming “has been in a slump the last couple of years,” notes JPMorgan Chase in its Wyoming Economic Outlook. The slump “likely reflects disruptions caused by the inroads made by natural gas as a source of electricity generation.” Wyoming’s $32 billion GDP grew just 1.4 percent over the past 12 months. JPMorgan Chase predicts better times ahead: “The robust energy outlook is a plus for the state.” Unemployment fell to 4 percent in March, significantly below the national rate. Wyoming’s tax burden is the lowest in the country, and the state topped the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. Wyoming spends at least $89.4 million per year on incentive programs, predominantly sales tax refunds, exemptions or other discounts, stated The New York Times. Top incentives go to trucking companies, alternative energy concerns and manufacturers.