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Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah

Provo-Orem named America's 'Best-Performing City' by Milken Institute

market research utah utah county Mar 04, 2021

Provo, Utah finally took the top spot, coming in first in the 2021 "Best-Performing-Cities Index" by Milken Institute. In 2020, Provo-Orem ranked #2 among large cities.

This year, the combined area of Provo-Orem was able to rank first in both one- and five-year job growth while also ranking high in high-tech GDP concentration and the number of high-tech industries. There has also been substantial in-migration as employers and employees migrate from the silicon valley to the silicon slopes along the Wasatch Front.

The cost of living continues to be significantly lower than in the Bay Area. However; Provo is the most expensive city for Utah renters, which highlights both the investment opportunities and the need for affordable housing.

San Francisco had previously held this spot but fell out of the top 10 in the most recent annual ranking. Utah is on somewhat of a hot streak with Salt Lake City coming in at 4th, and Ogden jumping from 22nd to 9th this year.

In this article we'll focus on just Provo-Orem and why it ranked the best performing city in 2021. We'll cover other Utah metros in another post.

"The Milken results track well with what he's observing about the Utah economy. We have been the strongest state, in terms of economic recovery, since the pandemic. We're actually back to overall job growth, as of December, in the state." - Phil Dean, Public Finance Senior Research Fellow, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

Economic Indicators

  • Job Growth: Ranked 1st. +27.7% (2014-19)
  • Job Growth: Ranked 4th. +3.5% (2018-19)
  • Wage Growth: Ranked 1st. +58.7% (2014-19)
  • Wage Growth: Ranked 1st. +11.5% (2018-19)
  • Short-Term Job Growth: Ranked 11th. -1.1% (10/2019-10/2020)
  • High-Tech GDP Growth: Ranked 4th. +78.9% (2014-19)
  • High-Tech GDP Growth: Ranked 8th. +11.8% (2018-19)
  • High-Tech GDP Concentration: Ranked 12th. LQ: 1.7 (2019)
  • Number of High-Tech Industries: Ranked 19th. 9 (2019)
  • Households with Broadband Access: Ranked 73rd. 88.8% (2019)
  • Households with Affordable Housing Costs: Ranked 93rd. 72.2% (2014-18)
  • Households with Affordable Housing Costs: Ranked 61st. 71.8% (2019)


  • Provo-Orem and the surrounding area have a great reputation for accommodating the tech industry and startups.
  • Both Brigham Young University (BYU) and Utah Valley University (UVU) provide companies with a strong hiring pool for research support, high-quality graduates, and stable employment opportunities.

The Milken Institute focuses on a number of factors when generating their annual report. This includes research into what they call "an outcomes-based set of metrics" which they describe as a look into job creation, wage growth, and changes in high-tech GDP, among other things.

What Utah County tech companies are saying

When you look at the numbers over the last several years, Utah County has continued to perform well as it becomes the center point for a lot of Utah's major tech companies (Adobe, Vivint, Qualtrics, Pluralsight, etc.)


"Utah is an entrepreneurial state and people here are sincerely invested in growing the Silicon Slopes and making the state a great place for tech. Historically, people might have worked along the Wasatch Front as just a stop on their career path before going to the east or west coast. Today there are enough large companies and budding startups that you can really build a career here, along with enjoying a great quality of life." - Starr Fowler, Vivint Senior VP of Human Resources


"The world is just noticing something we've known for a long time, that Utah has been a phenomenal place to build a business and to grow. Talent follows growth and growth follows talent, and we've got both in Utah right now.

The combination of job growth and opportunity, affordable housing, and world-class amenities mean that people want to come here. Utah is going to rank high on lists like this for years to come. Qualtrics has been based in Utah from the start and now we're a destination company in a destination location, that's certainly going to benefit us into the future." - Zig Serafin, CEO Qualtrics

BPC 2021: Top 10 Large Cities

Sources: Milken Institute, KSL

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