Is Provo, Utah the next Silicon Valley?

For some Americans, the mere mention of Utah brings to mind images of Mormons and skiing—not a tech boom. But this year, the Milken Institute named Provo, Utah the Best Performing City (BPC) in the US. And the usual favorites have dried up: San Francisco and San Jose fell from being in the “top 5” to 22 and 24, respectively.

The Milken Institute, founded in 1991 by Mike Milken, is primarily a nonprofit with the goal to raise funds to improve and create meaningful lives for people around the world. Since 1999, the institute has released an annual index with The Center for Regional Economics, a research-based organization that works to find ways to create job and industry growth. The index ranks cities in two sections: big and small. Provo is among the biggies; the best-performing small city is Idaho Falls, Idaho.

How they come up with the rankings

The BPC explained the way the cities are ranked, saying it is, “an outcomes-based set of metrics—including job creation, output growth, and wage gains especially in high-technology sectors—to evaluate the relative performance of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and metropolitan divisions (MDs) in the United States. The goal of the index is to help readers evaluate how well these cities promote economic vitality relative to their peers.” In short, the BPC considers multiple economic factors to see how each city compares to others across the country. 

In 2020, Provo ranked #2 on the top tier for big cities. This year, however, the Utah town fought its way up to first place. The BPC writes that Provo earned its title because it “ranked first in both one- and five-year job growth while also ranking highly in high-tech GDP concentration and the number of high-tech industries.” The index explains that since many tech giants were moving away from Silicon Valley, cities in more central American states were booming, Provo being one of them. 

College town hosts smart, ambitious students

The fact that Brigham Young University is located in Provo is another factor responsible for its success. The BPC writes that the university “provides research support, high-quality graduates, and stable employment,” which allows the city to prosper. Over the last two decades, the region has experienced phenomenal technology sector growth building on STEM talent graduating from Brigham Young University.”

Big tech companies in the area

The Utah mountains have also helped pull techies away from the California sun. Because of the boom and scenery, Provo has been deemed the ‘Silicon Slopes.’ Successful companies such as Qualtrics, Vivint, and SmartCitizen are some of the biggest names to establish themselves near the ski-ready mountains. BPC notes that although Provo happens to be one of the most expensive cities in Utah to rent a property, it is still much cheaper than San Francisco. 

If Provo wants to keep its place as #1 they will need to find a way to make their property prices more affordable to compare with other, less expensive cities. But in the meantime, the city should rejoice in its achievement. Watch out Silicon Valley, Provo is coming for you.