If you've ever thought about investing in the state of Utah on the stock market, now you can.

The Utah Focus Fund is a portfolio of 35 Utah companies that are primarily headquartered in the Beehive State (Zion's Bank, Purple Mattress, Overstock.com, for example), or have strong ties to the state (Rio Tinto Kennecott, Delta Air Lines, Northrop Grumman) and are publicly traded.

"Anybody can invest in the fund," said Bob Aamodt, co-founder and portfolio manager of the Utah Focus Fund. "These are companies that are openly traded on the stock market every single day."

Aamodt, a lifelong Utahn, co-founded the fund that launched publicly in January alongside Christopher Watkins. Together, they account for over 50 years of experience in professional investing.

The idea was born simply from the belief that Utah's best companies could go toe-to-toe with the nation's best. That belief isn't baseless, either.

In fact, it's a popular one.

Even before the devastating economical impacts of the pandemic, Utah's state economy was outperforming the rest of the nation. Utah recovered from the pandemic-induced downturn faster than any other state and has since regained its spot as one of the most bustling economies in the country with low unemployment, a diverse economic base and growing gross domestic product.

"The question for the investor is, 'Do you think that a group of companies that's located in the state of Utah will outperform a group of companies like the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000 or any other index that's out there?'" Aamodt said. "Our answer is yes. We believe that. We believe that the companies located in Utah will outperform because of the great economy, because of the great people, and we believe in Utah exceptionalism."

Aamodt and Watkins took this thesis and put it up against the test of time, looking at how they would have fared if they owned stock in the companies included in the Utah Focus Fund portfolio 15 years ago — and if they would have outperformed other stock indices.

To their delight, the history supported their thesis.

In the worst-case scenario, Aamodt said the Utah companies performed the same, but in most time periods outperformed the other indices.

"Once we backtested our thesis we said, 'OK, let's do this. Let's actually put this into the marketplace and see if we can attract dollars and attract investors that are also believers in the state of Utah and that Utah is an exceptional place to live, invest and to own a business,'" Aamodt said.

Aamodt noted that the concept of investing in an entire state through a stock portfolio is a brand new one and they're still figuring out how to attract investors. At this point, the Utah Focus Fund could still be considered a startup.

"We've got a couple million dollars in the fund already and we hope that that grows to $100 million or $200 million," Aamodt said. "We're just taking flight."

At the end of the day, even considering Utah's hot economy and rapid growth, Aamodt said it's "the people" that gives him such a steadfast belief in the Beehive State being a smart, long-term investment.

"(If) you believe that the people in Utah are smarter, work harder, more capable, more dedicated — and if a publicly traded company is going to go out and hire those people — then logic would tell you that that company is going to be better than another company," Aamodt said.

"That's what you're investing in. You're really investing in the people of Utah."

Aamodt said the number of companies in the portfolio isn't static and is "subject to change," noting that Houston-based NRG Energy's acquisition of Vivint Smart Home in December took the company out of the portfolio.

As far as an investor's stake in the individual companies, "if an investor invested $10,000, they would end up with about $285 of each company — 2.5 to 3% of their investment in each company," he said.

The portfolio is made up of:

  • BRC Inc.
  • Bridge Investment Group Holdings Inc.
  • Cricut Inc.
  • Delta Air Lines Inc.
  • Domo, Inc.
  • Extra Space Storage Inc.
  • Health Catalyst Inc.
  • HealthEquity Inc.
  • Instructure Holding, Inc.
  • Kroger Co.
  • Mercato Partners Acquisition Corp.
  • Merit Medical Systems Inc.
  • Myriad Genetics Inc.
  • Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • Novagold Resources, Inc.
  • Nu Skin Enterprises Inc.
  • Overstock.com Inc.
  • PROG Holdings Inc.
  • Purple Innovation Inc.
  • Qualtrics International Inc.
  • Quotient Technology Inc.
  • R1 RCM Inc.
  • Recursion Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Rio Tinto PLC.
  • Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corp.
  • SkyWest Inc.
  • Sportsman's Warehouse Holdings Inc.
  • Traeger Inc.
  • Varex Imaging Corp.
  • Weave Communications Inc.
  • Wells Fargo & Co.
  • Zions Bancorporation