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For entrepreneurs, Provo is the place

City gets perfect score for attracting growing firms

SHARE For entrepreneurs, Provo is the place

PROVO — If you're an entrepreneur, this is the place.

Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George all ranked high in a recently released study rating a city's ability to attract firms that grow rapidly.

Provo did especially well, earning the study's only perfect score. Between 1992 and 1997, 332 companies in Provo grew by 15 percent or more.

In a study conducted by the National Commission for Entrepreneurship, Provo ranked first in its concentration of high-growth businesses among communities with a population between 150,000 and 300,000. St. George ranked second in the same population group.

Salt Lake City ranked second to Phoenix in cities with a population between 1 million and 3 million. Salt Lake had 1,617 businesses that grew by 15 percent or more between 1992 and 1997.

The study is based on the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, ranking metropolitan areas according to the number of established companies that expanded their payroll by 100 percent during the period and start-ups that employed more than 20 people by 1997.

A study using data from 1997 to 2001 should be available next year.

"Success breeds success, and you're seeing that in Utah," said Ken Berlack, communications director for the National Commission for Entrepreneurship. "Provo has established itself as a city that is very hospitable to high-tech firms. Provo is a national model at this point."

Like Boston, Seattle and Austin, Berlack said Provo has established itself as a mecca for high-tech firms because it has a university to draw upon for its work force and a city government that promotes business. The city also attracts high-growth companies, Berlack said, because it has a low cost of living and little congestion compared to bigger cities.

"Local communities can use this report to determine how they are doing and if they are creating the right type of environment for these kinds of companies to succeed," Berlack said. "We think this is where government has a role."

While Provo has tried to create an atmosphere that will attract high-tech firms, it "is not our writing checks to get people out here," said Dixon Holmes, Provo's assistant director of economic development.

The city built business parks in Eastbay and the Riverwoods that have grown, but Holmes attributes most of Provo's success to Brigham Young University and local companies, like Novell.

"We try not to have too much red tape, but a lot of the credit should go to BYU and businesses themselves and people who work here," Holmes said. "People stay here and make things happen even if there is a downturn in the economy. Sometimes, for us, it's just staying out of the way."

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com