Why Salt Lake City is Being Coined “Silicon Slopes”

For years, Salt Lake City, Utah, had little in common with Los Angeles or San Francisco besides a professional basketball team. But that’s quickly changing, as the capital of the Beehive State has become a hub for business investment, developments, and technology.

With a population of roughly 1.2M as of 2018, Salt Lake City is estimated to be the 47th-largest American city by metropolitan area. However, it produces $90.2B in gross metro product per year, according to Forbes. Its median household income, median home price, and job growth are all well above the national average with unemployment below the national average, at 2.9 percent.

And the state of Utah is just as impressive. In U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best State Rankings, Utah ranked No. 1 for employment, No. 2 in economy, No. 3 for infrastructure, No. 4 overall, and No. 5 for both fiscal stability and business environment. Forbes concurs, ranking Utah third in its Best State for Business rankings, and No. 1 in six of the past 13 years.

Of last year’s 17 notable business creation and expansion projects in Salt Lake City, five were in information technology and communications, while three were in business and financial services.

Salt Lake City saw business investment from large multinational corporations in 2019. Creating jobs and expanding their presence were outdoor product manufacturer Clarus Corporation, media agency Essence Global, data center infrastructure company Aligned Energy, and medical device player Innovasis. Of last year’s 17 notable business creation and expansion projects in Salt Lake City, five were in information technology and communications, while three were in business and financial services.

An expanding tech presence may surprise some, but the city has been on the rise in that space for several years. In 2018, Forbes touted SLC as the No. 1 American city “Poised to Become Tomorrow’s Tech Mecca.” Many are beginning to call Utah’s capital “Silicon Slopes.”

California, the nation’s largest state, boasts two of the world’s largest tech hubs: L.A. and San Francisco. However, the Golden State is notorious for high taxes, an expensive workforce, and strict regulations, which may be why some companies are looking toward Utah for new business solutions.

In early 2018, software giant Adobe chose Utah, not California, as the new site for its $90M facility, which is expected to create 1,000 jobs and $2.3B in new wages over the next 20 years. E-commerce site eBay opened a 240,000-square-foot campus in the Salt Lake City area in 2013. Many have since followed suit. Collective Health, Carta, and Earnest are just a few examples of health care and technology companies founded in California that have broken ground in Salt Lake City.

Utah is known for being fiscally conservative, as it spends a third less per capita on state and local government services than New York. In spite of this, Utah has the least income inequality in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest data.

In December 2019, The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore called Utah “America’s Economic Star” due to low taxes, a strong business climate, and a healthy education system, not to mention its beautiful surrounding area, highlighted by its famous five national parks.

A corporate tax rate below 5 percent and no “death tax” for the retired wealthy are key factors that keep money in the state, which translates to a bountiful job landscape and quickly rising wages. On the education front, Utah is in the top half of U.S. News & World Report’s Pre-K to 12th grade education rankings at No. 22. According to Moore, this is despite per-pupil state spending that’s the lowest in the nation and $4,000 below the national average.

Demographic trends are also in Utah’s favor. From 2010 to 2019, the Beehive State was the fastest-growing state by population, as it expanded 16.7 percent from the 35th-largest state to 30th. Utah’s median age is 31, which is the lowest in the nation and well below the national median age 38.1, and in Salt Lake City, the base of 25- to 44-year-olds has grown by 19 percent since 2010.

WalletHub’s research found that Utah is the second happiest state in America, behind only Hawaii, with a “work environment” rank of No. 1 and a “community and environment” rank of No. 2.

This special section highlights commercial and investment banking power J.P. Morgan, social marketing platform Wooly, and real-estate brokerage company The Agency, which have all found a home in Salt Lake City and its surrounding areas.