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Utah's small businesses have gotten the bulk of his administration's attention the past four years and will continue to be the stalwart of the state's economy, according to Gov. Norm Bangerter.

Bangerter presented two Utah firms, WordPerfect and Little & Co., with awards for making the INC. 500 list in 1987. The INC. 500 are the fastest growing 500 privately held companies in America.Speaking at the Salt Lake Rotary Club this week, where the INC. awards were presented, Bangerter said half of all Utah businesses employ fewer than 100 people; 75 percent employ fewer than 500 workers.

"More importantly to the economy, 80 percent of all new jobs will be created by small business," Bangerter said.

"I was a small-businessman. I understand your problems and appreciate your efforts," the governor said. Before being elected in 1984, Bangerter was a successful home builder.

Bangerter said he has started a number of programs that are helping Utah small businessmen:

The Centers of Excellence seeks to spin off high-tech research from the state's colleges and universities into private business. "This is exactly what happened with WordPerfect, which was started by two Brigham Young University professors," Bangerter said.

The Utah Technology Finance Corp. aims to help underwrite new businesses.

The Federal Procurement Office has helped get federal government contracts, especially defense contracts, for local businesses. "One hundred Utah firms have received an additional $60 million in contracts, mainly from Hill Air Force Base, in the last several years," he said.

Much still must be done, Bangerter said. "Our No. 1 goal is to set up a venture capital fund to help new businesses get started and old businesses to expand. It is a major challenge before us now.

"We need you," Bangerter told the business leaders. "As I tell my economic development people: If the state is involved in every new business deal in the state, not enough deals are being made. We must have private business doing its part."

Toward that end, Bangerter said, he started the Young Entrepreneur program. Some $10,000 is awarded each year to high school students who have started their own successful businesses.