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Utah is known for its sheer untouched beauty, containing one of the greatest concentrations of spectacular geological features in the world. From the archetypal Western images of sandy desert, deep canyons, and towering red rocks in the south to the sprawling green pines and rugged peaks of the mountains in the north, this is what first comes to mind for many when it comes to the Beehive State. However, it is also the home to a burgeoning center of industry and technological community known as the Silicon Slopes — a cheeky reference to Silicon Valley substituting the mountains of Utah for the valley of Northern California.
As Salt Lake City, Provo, Park City, Cache Valley, Midvale, and other surrounding areas have quickly grown to be home to companies ranging from SanDisk to eBay, they join stalwarts of the region such as the global nutritional company USANA that have long seen the value the area presents. Included for the 13th year in a row in Utah Business Magazine’s Fast 50 list, USANA was ranked 35th among the fastest growing companies in the state. The magazine is known as Utah’s premier business news and information provider, and selects its Fast 50 recipients based on a combination of revenue growth and total revenue. Beating out a vastly growing number of technological companies and start-ups settling in the area, USANA’s commitment to excellence, integrity, health, and community are just a few of the ways it continually sets itself apart.
USANA’s president, Jim Brown, said of the honor: “Our continuous involvement on the Fast 50 list wouldn’t be possible without our exceptional independent sales force, hard-working employees, and innovative health and beauty products. Being included on this list with other amazing Utah companies is an honor and privilege.”
The History of Silicon Slopes
Located between Salt Lake City and Provo, two of Utah’s largest metropolises, historically the area itself was largely underdeveloped. With the exception of much smaller cities such as Alpine and Orem City, the region was home to a state prison, farmland, and little else. Motivated to develop the rural and deteriorating regions of the state, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development established the EDTID (Economic Development Tax Increment Financing) tax credit. In addition to this, the Utah Office of Rural Development created the Utah Enterprise Zone Tax Credit to motivate businesses to choose locations that would benefit rural areas, structuring them to encourage strong economic growth and professional retention. To further encourage prospective employees of Silicon Slope companies, the United States Department of Agriculture partnered with the State of Utah to provide motivating factors for relocation such as structured mortgages that require little to no down payment, and can include extra financing to update or refurbish older homes.
When it came to the development of Silicon Slopes, Utah’s long history of partnerships with the United States Department of Defense certainly played a part in laying the groundwork. In the early 1960’s, the newly created computer science department at the University of Utah was instrumental in working on the Pentagon’s Advance Research Project Agency and eventually helped to establish ARPANET. An experimental computer network, the University of Utah was one of the original four connecting points for the technology that was the forerunner of the Internet. This early partnership enabled Utah to have more joint ventures with the military, who liked the higher security and less vulnerability to attacks the geographically isolated location of Utah provided. These foundations built over the years established Utah’s ability to become a leading technology center, with Google Fiber selecting Provo and Salt Lake City as two of the earliest cities they would expand their services to.
The United States military aren’t the only ones who noted the enticing nature of Utah’s locale. For potential employees, the cost of living is lower than in Seattle or Portland, geographic proximity means less time and cost for travel, and the climate is cooler than Phoenix or Austin. The four distinct seasons and nearby Rocky Mountains provide the opportunity for activities year-round such as skiing, hiking, and rock climbing, not to mention the many national parks that aren’t more than a day’s drive away. Employers and potential companies are attracted to the potential labor force in Utah, which maintains the youngest population in the United States. It is also home to three major universities, many of which have a primary emphasis on entrepreneurship, innovation, and research and development.
USANA: Roots in the Beehive State
From tech start-ups such as Domo to retail companies like Overstock.com, Silicon Slopes now plays host to an increasingly large number of technological and entrepreneurial companies. As explored above, a number of incentives and groundwork have been the driving force behind the growing popularity of the region, but global health brand USANA was able to see its value much earlier than most.
USANA was founded by the internationally recognized immunologist and microbiologist Myron Wentz. Although born and raised in North Dakota, Wentz moved to Utah to participate in the University of Utah’s microbiology and immunology doctoral program and soon fell in love with the scenic beauty the state provided. After earning his Ph.D from the university, he founded a diagnostic testing company in Salt Lake City which he successfully ran for twenty years. In 1992, he moved the company to West Valley City where he spun it off to found USANA Health Sciences and soon sold the diagnostic testing portion to focus entirely on his new venture.
Today, USANA is a multi-level marketing manufacturer of supplements and health products. Built around the idea that your health will benefit if you feed the cells in your body exactly what they need, the company creates high-quality nutritional products from protein shake bases to toothpaste. Bucking the traditional structure of retailers, USANA’s products are exclusively available directly from the company or one of their independent distributors known as associates. In addition to the most recent recognition given by Utah Business Magazine, USANA has received local, national, and international recognition for its success, and since its inception in 1992 it has won more than 750 awards. Among these, it was named on Forbes “200 Best Small Companies List” for three years in a row, and has been recognized for a decade for promoting ethical business standards by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) Code of Ethics Communication Initiative.
In 2020, WalletHub named Utah the second happiest state in America, also earning a rank of number one for its work environment. The Silicon Slopes has been on the rise for the past decade, and in early 2018, software giant Adobe chose Utah, not California, as the new site for its $90M facility. But even as more and more tech giants join the ranks of those who prefer mountains to valleys and seek the low taxes, strong business climate, and healthy education system — not to mention its beautiful surrounding area, highlighted by its famous five national parks — USANA continues to be recognized as one of the top companies in the state. With over 25 years in the Silicon Slopes, USANA is proof that the region is not only a hot new location for entrepreneurs and businessmen alike, but a tenable option that can sustain long-term growth.
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