Utah Gov. Cox shares Utah’s secret to economic and entrepreneurial success at MountainWest event

David S. Layton, Layton Construction president and CEO, speaks after he is honored as the MountainWest Capital Network Entrepreneur of the Year at The Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
David S. Layton, Layton Construction president and CEO, speaks after he is honored as the MountainWest Capital Network Entrepreneur of the Year at The Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Since Utah was ranked No. 1 for having the best economy in the U.S. and as the best state overall in how it benefits its citizens for the year 2023 according to U.S. News and World Report, the state’s Gov. Spencer Cox said he has had many conversations as to why that’s the case.

“I’ve been talking with some other governors and some other entrepreneurs across the country over the past couple years,” Cox said in a room of nearly a thousand business leaders and entrepreneurs at the 2024 MountainWest Capital Network Entrepreneur of the Year event.

The governor recalled one specific conversation where they said to him, “When we see the data, we see all of the accolades, we do not understand why Utah is consistently at the top of all of these rankings, specifically around business and entrepreneurship.”

This conversation in particular, Cox said, was about relatively new data from the Economic Innovation Group showing Utah to have a state dynamism index of 56, ranking the Beehive State first in the nation.

Economic dynamism refers to the vigor and effectiveness with which an economy operates and evolves. The data showed that since the early 1990s, economic dynamism has dropped nearly 24% on average, but the West and parts of the South have held leading positions in economic stability.

“So we talked about data, about government and government regulations and our tax structure. ... The research says we’re doing some good things,” Cox said “But that’s not the answer.”

“We lead the nation in volunteering, in service and in charitable giving,” Cox said. “I actually think it has everything to do with the dynamism that we feel here.”

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Utah is going on its fourth year as being the most charitable state in the nation, according to a WalletHub analysis.

Utah is leading the nation with a volunteer rate of 40.7% and the highest volunteer hours per capita at 39.42 hours, with more than half of the state’s population giving their time to service.

“We have a community culture and this ability to give back, and everyone benefits from that,” Cox said to the audience. “We’re here because of the commitment always to give back and make Utah a better place.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to David S. Layton, president and CEO of Layton Construction.

David S. Layton, Layton Construction president and CEO, speaks after he is honored as the MountainWest Capital Network Entrepreneur of the Year at The Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
David S. Layton, Layton Construction president and CEO, speaks after he is honored as the MountainWest Capital Network Entrepreneur of the Year at The Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Cox said the success of the company, founded in Utah in 1953 and licensed in all 50 states, and of David Layton specifically, represent the best of Utah.

“Not because they’ve made a lot of money, but because they’ve taken every gift they’ve been given and they’ve turned it into something beautiful to help all of us be better people,” Cox said. “That’s what Dave has done. That’s what Dave will continue to do.”