What makes Utah the best state in the U.S.? It’s a combination of things, the state’s governor says, but a core tenet is keeping the state unique as it experiences record growth.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox spoke Tuesday during the One Utah Summit, where business leaders and entrepreneurs convened in Layton to tout accomplishments and the state’s economic outlook.

Cox closed out the summit where he touched on the recent news that Utah is, according to U.S. News and World Report, the best state in the country. The key to that ranking, he explained, is not conforming to be like other desirable cities and states, but to instead grow in a way that keeps Utah unique.

“I don’t want Silicon Slopes to become like Silicon Valley. I really don’t. There’s already one of those, we don’t need it. If you want to work 23 hours a day and never see your family, and change the world but not have a great life, go to San Francisco. There’s a place for you there. I don’t want our nightlife to be like Las Vegas. I don’t want to be the ‘B-level’ Vegas. If you want that, it’s not that far away,” Cox told the crowd.

“We have something very special here,” he continued, “and that special thing is we care about our families and we care about our neighbors. And that’s what makes Utah different. And the minute we forget that, we become a second rate city, a second rate state, just like anywhere else.”

The report considers a number of metrics, including crime, economy, infrastructure and education. Utah was ranked the best state for both economy and fiscal stability, forth for infrastructure, fifth for education and seventh for health care.

Overall, Washington was ranked the second best state, Idaho third, Nebraska fourth and Minnesota fifth. Louisiana received the unfortunate ranking of 50th best state.

Though Utah received mostly high rankings in individual metrics, it was ranked 46th for natural environment, which considers pollution threats and air quality.

“We don’t always get it right. Sometimes there are controversial things, we aren't able to find compromise, and we end up doing things like the rest of the country. But more often than not, we are on the other side,” Cox said.

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Cox gave the crowd two examples, the first involving the wave of police brutality protests that swept the country in 2020. Across the U.S., people were given two choices, Cox said — you could be on the side of the protesters, or law enforcement.

“Those were your choices. If you look at the media, that’s what they’ll tell you. You have to choose one or the other. In Utah, we rejected that,” Cox said, pointing to meetings with the Utah Department of Public Safety and the NAACP, which resulted in the passage of “a dozen bills, I lost count, about ways we could work better together.” 

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The second example stemmed from a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Petersen, R-North Logan, this past session that would have loosened a 2020 ban on conversion therapy. Petersen changed the bill after receiving some criticism from advocates so it would instead codify the ban on conversion therapy, a harmful and ineffective attempt to turn an LGBTQ person straight.

“At that bill signing, I had Troy Williams, with the LGBTQ community, (who) leads Equality Utah. And I had Gayle Ruzicka, who leads the Eagle Forum. And they were there together as we signed that bill,” Cox said. “That doesn't happen anywhere else. It just doesn’t.”

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