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 “UTAH?!”  This is a frequent reaction upon hearing the news of my moving there late September. Though business continues as usual in California, as it does when vacation takes me to other countries, some people react as if working from Utah is commuting from Mars. I’ve worked from Budapest, farm regions in France and remote fishing villages in Italy with barely any cellphone coverage, I’m pretty sure Utah will be easier.

Having just passed Utah’s arduous and exacting driver’s test (studied three hours, still needed help) I am a newly minted Utahn and can offer answers to the CA vs UT question.

Other than clean air and Cedar City’s renowned Shakespeare Festival, which is one of the oldest and largest Shakespearean festivals in North America, this city is aptly referred to as Festival City. Early observations reveal they do like their festive occasions. Every weekend has competitions, annual this and that, along with tourists from various countries trying to figure out what’s going on after their long hikes in Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Let’s talk  business. These excerpts from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development say it all:

    Forbes has named Utah the Best State for Business eight of the last nine years, including the No. 1 ranking again for 2018.

    (Utah) is one of the most diverse economies in America. From aerospace to I.T. and software, some of the state's leading industries are no longer built on the land but on the brain power of the talent that has found its way to the Silicon Slopes. (What’s that you say? Try: Adobe, eBay, Microsoft, Oracle, Vivint, etc.)

    "We have a business-friendly Legislature that is intent on enacting business-friendly laws and regulations, including low corporate and individual taxes," says Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The result is a fertile soil for businesses to grow and prosper.”

    “Utah scores well across the board, with particularly high marks for its regulatory climate and growth prospects,” notes Forbes.  (Governor Herbert) eliminated or significantly changed nearly 400 regulations during the past seven years. Utah also boasts a business-friendly legal climate and fiscally sound government — it’s one of only 10 states to hold a AAA bond rating from all three rating agencies.”

    Utah boasts the highest growth in nonfarm payrolls over the past year and the third highest GDP growth. Utah is tied for first with California in most independent inventor patents per capita.

    When the Milken Institute released its annual Index of Best-Performing Cities in January, three Utah locations surged to the top: Provo-Orem, Salt Lake City and St. George. Provo-Orem ranks No. 1 among all large metro areas in the country, while Salt Lake City ranks second. St. George ranks No. 2 among all small metros.

While California will always be “home” in all the ways that count, Utah opens up an even brighter future. Opportunities pop up daily here.  Even Google can’t keep up with new street names, businesses and homes.

It may be the norm, but seeing ranchers, espressos, literary classics, sushi, and Neil Simon plays in a small city is a welcome challenge to (I’m ashamed to admit) my preconceived notions. I’m looking forward to learning more lessons about my new state while keeping my DNA California compass.