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Despite losing its best-performing city crown, Provo officials remain optimistic

Downtown Provo, Utah, Jan. 31, 2024
Elaine Clark
Downtown Provo, Utah, Jan. 31, 2024

The Provo-Orem area was the best-performing city in the country for the past three years according to the nonprofit Milken Institute. This year it has slid to number five in the economic think-tank’s 2024 rankings.

The report said Provo saw “notable drops in its one year job and wage growth rankings.”

Utah County experienced multiple high profile layoffs last year – including job losses at large hometown companies like Qualtrics. This follows a trend of slower growth and layoffs in tech nationally.

Still, Utah Economic Development Corporation CEO Scott Cuthbertson said that while the Institute’s report focuses mostly on the tech industry, there’s a lot more to the economy in the Utah Valley.

“We perform very well, punch above our weight, in aerospace and defense and financial services and life sciences and advanced manufacturing.”

Cuthbertson thinks economic diversity has been an important part of building a strong economy statewide.

“Over the past 20, 30 years we went from being this sort of one dimensional mining and extraction state to becoming very diversified.”

There’s evidence for this stability, he said, in the fact that Provo-Orem maintained its place in the top 10 best-performing communities, despite the recent downturn. The city also ranked first in the nation for community resilience – which was defined as a city’s ability to withstand both economic and natural disasters.

A downturn doesn’t necessarily signify disaster for the area’s tech industry either.

According to Provo Economic Development Division Director Keith Morey, “the one thing that we’ve seen for decades is that this process is cyclical. Those same people that are maybe now searching for employment become the developers of new companies.”

Morey believes everything from Provo’s scenery to its skilled workforce will continue to attract and maintain tech growth.

Overall, he said the ranking is “just a reflection of the tech industry right-sizing itself,” after it grew too quickly during the pandemic.

“It doesn’t really affect our perception or ability to act or perform as the best-performing city. We will continue to do that.”

Tilda is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in the Central Utah bureau based out of Provo.
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