Ever thought you were living in a state that is an economic dynamo?

A report released Tuesday says you are, and, what's more, it's the hardest-charging dynamo in the country.

While Utah had divergent results in various categories in the 2007 State New Economy Index, it finished tops among all states for "economic dynamism."

The report, released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and available at www.kauffman.org/neweconomy, gauges "the degree to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, information technology-driven and innovation-based."

"When you look at the report, I see a lot of things we're doing really well," said Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "When it comes to dynamism, we're No. 1. That's a very important piece of economic development. It shows that many of our key initiatives are doing very well. It shows the entrepreneurial spirit in the state and how important those particular aspects are for our economy."

The report's economic dynamism rankings were based on jobs in fast-growing "gazelle" firms (those with annual sales revenue growing 20 percent or more for four straight years), the degree of job churning, the number of Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Inc. 500 firms, the number and value of companies' initial public offerings, the number of entrepreneurs starting new businesses and the number of individual inventor patents issued.

Those dynamism elements are "exactly what we do well in the state of Utah," Perry said. "As we go around looking for business to grow here and to relocate, we always talk about that particular aspect. This is the first time we've seen it in print, though, and it's very satisfying to see that that's the case."

In overall rankings, Utah was 12th — not quite as strong as in 1999, when it was sixth but up from 2002's placement of 16th. The report noted that it used different indicators and methodologies for each report, so the total scores are not necessarily compatible and a state's movement does not necessarily reflect changes in its economy.

Richard Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Utah Technology Council, said the report was "good news for Utah and Utah's high-growth companies." Utah's rankings were "impressive," especially its top-five rankings in several categories.

"With a governor who is tech-savvy and has put an emphasis on collaboration, Utah's innovative and entrepreneurial economy is thriving," Nelson said.

He said the dynamism ranking is not surprising when the underlying components are considered. "We've long known that the Inc. 500 high-growth companies have underscored Utah's success," he said. "In fact, the Inc. 500 highlighted Utah as the epicenter of high-growth companies just three years ago."

The "dynamism" ranking was among five core categories that incorporated several indicators. Others were "knowledge jobs," where Utah was 15th; digital economy, 18th; innovation capacity, 18th; and globalization, 32nd.

Perry said Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has been talking about globalization as a need to be filled in Utah.

"We've got to start tapping into the global economy and take our business more to those environments," he said, noting trade missions, the establishment of an international trade office and world trade center developments among the initiatives. "That one key area shows the gap we've been trying fill the past couple of months. That's one area where we can really improve."

Among the 26 indicators from various sources used for the index score, Utah's top 10 rankings included second for e-government and inventor patents; third for job churning, online population and Internet domain names; fourth for fastest-growing firms; fifth for venture capital; and 10th for high-tech jobs and high-wage traded services.

Regarding venture capital, Nelson said Utah's "fund of funds" "is working now that it's been open the past year in attracting additional substantial new sources of capital to the state."

Utah finished in the middle of the pack in several categories and dead last for computer and Internet usage in schools. But the report noted that one surprise was that several states with strong technology economies — California, Maryland and New Hampshire among them — have generally scored near the bottom on that measure.

Perry said that ranking might be offset by Utah's third-place listing for online population. "Our state is very well-connected already in our homes in every capacity ... so, by itself, it (the school technology ranking) is not particularly alarming. If you had very low technology in our schools and a low measurement of connectivity in our population, that would be much more concerning," he said.

Among Utah references in the report was one noting that top-ranking states tend to be wealthier. "Some states with higher per capita incomes lag behind in their scores (for example, Alaska, Illinois and Wyoming), while other states with lower incomes do relatively well (such as Texas and Utah)," it said.

Among other statistics and comments about Utah in the report were:

• Utah and Michigan were listed as "states with a tradition of 'good government."'

• Utah's second-place inventor patents ranking was based on 0.123 patents per 1,000 people of work force age.

• Utah has 70 percent of its adult population online.

• Regarding Internet domain names per firm, Utah was fifth in 1999, 11th in 2002 and third in 2007.

• Utah was among the "top five movers" climbing up the ranks since 2002 in both the "managerial, professional and technical jobs" and "export focus of manufacturing and services" categories.

Perry noted that all of the index categories fit well with the state's economic cluster strategy and that the report will be useful to state officials.

"I think this report is very informative and well-grounded in solid economic principles. Because of that, the rankings will be built into our policy decisions. These are really the elements of the New Economy that we're dealing in, and Utah needs to be poised in these areas to exceed expectations. I think this is one of those studies worth taking note of and worth using to set policy."


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com