Salt Lake City among best places to go from rags to riches

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SALT LAKE CITY --  A new study shows Salt Lake City is at the top of the list when it comes to poor people becoming rich, and one Utah man’s rags-to-riches story is a perfect illustration of that ranking.

Jorge Fierro emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1985, and he worked as a dishwasher, bus boy and even a sheep herder. Fierro worked hard and learned English along the way, and now he is the president and CEO of Rico Brand foods and Frida Bistro.

Fierro said his success comes from the choices he made.

“When you do the right thing, the rest follows,” he said.

Fierro started his business ventures in humble fashion back in 1997 by selling beans at a farmers market, and years later he has achieved a great deal of success.

“I have revenues that exceed $4 million a year in sales, I have about 82 employees,” he said.

Rico Brand food products can be found in grocery stores across the country, and Fierro said the growth of his company was due to a fertile location.

“The reason why I'm so successful, I believe that I was in Utah at the right time at the right place,” he said.

Fierro’s story isn’t the only one of its kind in Utah. According to a study from the Equality of Opportunity Project that compared tax returns of individuals over the course of several years, Salt Lake City is number one in the nation when it comes to the percentage of individuals who moved from the bottom 20 percent of income earners to the top 20 percent. The study ranked the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Stephen Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation, said Utah is a great place to do business.

“It looks like we do have a little more economic mobility here than other places,” he said. “We're the kind of place that is rapidly growing.”

However, Kroes said Utah can always improve.

“We need to not persuade ourselves that all is well, when there are really some hard things to work on,” he said.

Kroes said he believes education funding is one of those areas that can be improved. He said he fears low funding for education will move Utah off the top of the list.

Croes cited a study from the Pew Research Center that indicates, “We’ve got a clear majority of Americans who think it's going to be much harder for the next generation to achieve the American dream,” he said.

Fierro said the American dream is alive and well for him, and he continues to work hard to keep it going.

“I am the business,” he said. “I've been going to farmers market every Saturday for the last 17 years, and if you go tomorrow to the farmers market you're going to find me there.”