Provo-Orem rated #1 ‘top-performing economy’

The Milken Institute Best Performing Cities index rated the Provo-Orem metropolitan area #1 for its economic growth amid COVID-19 and throughout 2020. (Ken Lund, Flickr)

The Provo-Orem metropolitan area placed first for the “top-performing economy” for 2021 in the annual Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities index.

The Provo-Orem area has made it into the Milken Institute’s top ten list since 2018.

The Milken Institute is a think tank based out of Santa Monica, California. It used a number of factors to evaluate cities based on their economy — including how cities responded to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic — job opportunities, broadband access and housing affordability.

Several other Utah cities also made their way into the rankings, such as the Ogden-Clearfield area and the Salt Lake City metropolitan area.

Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics and California Center, broke down the several factors included in the research and rankings. He said the Provo-Orem area especially excelled in the highest wage growth, at 11.5%.

“These aren’t just good jobs, these are well-paying jobs. This is a big deal. It’s a more diversified economy,” Klowden said.

Provo topped several large cities in California that had been topping the charts previously. The Milken Institute attributes this to the negative repercussions California’s economy has faced due to COVID-19 circumstances and, relatedly, the large exodus of families from California cities to more affordable places across the United States like Utah.

This influx of new residents is just one of the factors that caused the advance in Provo’s economy.

“There’s been a lot of economic growth around here for some years. It’s not just something that’s happened because of the COVID,” said BYU economics professor Michael Ransom.

Ransom said Utah Valley benefits from an “agglomeration economy,” which is when an urban economy has synergy between different locations and businesses nearby. An example of this is Silicon Slopes and Provo tech companies in close proximity to each other.

Provo City economic development director Keith Morey said he believes Utah’s state government and Provo’s local government have worked to develop a strong state and local economy.

“We’ve had healthy state budgets and healthy local government budgets, and I think that affords some stability,” Morey said. “This ranking is a really strong tribute to the leadership in our community and what they’ve done to help make this a great place to be and work and live.”

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