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Utah has had its economic troubles in recent years and many people are still feeling the financial pinch. But the tide of recovery has run strong this past year - and there is cause for optimism in the year ahead.

Part of this is simply an echo of what's happening on the national scene where the economic news has been very good. The Gross National Product is expanding at a 4 percent rate, the best since 1984.While leading economists this week predicted some national slowdown in 1989 - a prospect they cheered as helping keep the lid on inflation and thus helping in the long run - the Utah economy may enjoy continued robust growth in jobs.

A report by the Department of Employment Security notes that 17,200 new non-agricultural jobs were created in Utah the past 12 months - triple the number created the previous year. That's astounding.

True, many of the jobs were in the lower-paid service sector, but any new employment helps the economic picture. And 4,500 of the additional positions were in manufacturing.

An additional good sign is that the growth was widespread around the state, including some areas that have had serious employment problems since the recession several years ago.

An important question is whether the recovery will last and lead to even better things. The prospects are good that Utah can cash in on an expected boom in airline construction - if it can break out of a Catch-22 problem.

A huge expansion is expected in the airline industry nationally because of growing numbers of passengers requiring more aircraft, plus the aging of much of the existing fleet, which will have to be replaced.

Utah already has some companies dealing in airline parts and the state is looked upon favorably by companies expanding in this field. They cite Utah's work force, its low real estate prices, and an strong existing base in the aerospace industry.

Yet there is a problem. Many larger aircraft firms hesitate to move to Utah because there aren't enough of the small companies that provide a variety of high-tech support services. Yet the small companies are reluctant to start business in the state because there aren't enough big aerospace firms to provide them with business. It's the old dilemma of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Utah has set up a task for to analyze the problem, but the main difficulty is fairly obvious - the lack of venture capital, or money loaned to help new businesses get started.

Such obstacles won't be easy to overcome, but the possibilities are there. If the ball can be started rolling, Utah's reputation for an outstanding work force, a great lifestyle, and lower costs could bring on an economic boom. It will take optimism and vigor instead of negativism and retreat, but it can be done.