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IS S.L.'S BUSINESS CLIMATE OVERRATED?

Is Salt Lake City's business climate - ranked best in the nation by Fortune magazine - overrated? George Gendron, editor in chief of Inc. magazine thinks so and tells his subscribers as much in the magazine's June issue.

Not only that, but Gendron contends there are no good Chinese restaurants in the Salt Lake area - a claim that should earn him some hate mail. Obviously, he has never eaten at Charley Chow or one of the two dozen other fine Chinese eateries in the area.The June issue includes Inc.'s annual "Metro Report" in which a "crack team" (Gendron's description) of Inc. editors and writers picks the best places to do business in the United States.

Those writers and editors picked Salt Lake City as a runner-up in the "Southwest" (maybe the "crack team" better take a second look at a map of the United States), second to "Blue-Ribbon" Dallas/Ft. Worth.

In its report, the team says that, like Dallas, Salt Lake City "went into a slump" a few years ago. But the report quotes William A. Maasberg, chief executive officer of Libra Corp., a Salt Lake software developer, as saying, "We're going to lead the way out. We've got a lot of good, solid new industry here."

But in his editor's column, "FYI," Gendron dismisses Salt Lake's business prospects as "getting better but still not ready for prime time."

Gendron says Salt Lakers consider their Fortune ranking as "the most important event since the discovery of cold fusion in a test tube." He says that local business owners acknowledge the city's "well-educated, honest, hard-working labor force," but they have "no spark" and that the city has "too many white men wearing suits." (What would he have us wear, grass skirts?)

Gendron then adds the ultimate insult: "There isn't a decent Chinese restaurant in town."

Seattle, one of the nation's growth hot spots of recent years, is also relegated to "overrated" status in Gendron's "own personal metro report." He says Seattle "lacks muck" (is that bad?) and is too "precious." The city is also, he says, too overly dependent on Boeing, "sugar daddy of the local economy."

So which cities does Gendron believe are the best to do business? His list includes Miami (there goes his credibility right there), "Any City in the Midwest," Orange County, Calif., and North Dakota.

Of Miami, he says the city's residents intrinsically understand free enterprise ("They just get it). And while most of them are not Americans, the immigrants there have "good old American values."

In praising the Midwest, Gendron says that all of the cities in the region have been "quietly going about the business of making themselves competitive," while the rest of the country has been debating the issue.

Turning to Orange County, Gendron says it is no longer a suburb of Los Angeles but has become "more like Dallas on the Pacific . . . overcrowded, expensive, waterless" but with a modern infrastructure and an airport (John Wayne International) that has become a "mini-O'Hare."

As for North Dakota, Gendron acknowledges it is not a city, but says the state is a great place for back offices of all kinds. "Terrific workers. Family-farm values. No distractions. Holiday Inn rooms at $60 per night."

In his list of the "worst" locations for business, Gendron cites Philadelphia - "The Baghdad of the U.S. economy. Nothing works."

New York also gets the Gendron treatment: "The city has lost all the cultural and business fringes that gave it its vitality. Want to see what Manhattan will look like 10 years from now? Visit Philadelphia."

Number three on the Gendron bash list is Nashua, N.H. "The only hick town in the United States with . . . traffic jams."