Hold a table at Bambara or Trofi -- it's an investing party in downtown Salt Lake City!

There are many good reasons for researching investment opportunities in a certain geographic area. Today, it's Salt Lake City, Utah. Known for its Mormon roots and breathtaking ski slopes, the Crossroads of the West invites businesses large and small -- though mostly the smaller ones call the city home.

If you happen to live in Centerville or Peruvian Park, you already have a few advantages when it comes to evaluating the local market, such as access to local news sources and the word on the street, and a high probability of being a customer or employee of these companies. And if you're not a local resident, you still might want to know whether the weather matches the business climate -- a hot area could be chock-full of undiscovered treasures on their way to greatness.

Without further ado, here are the largest companies headquartered between Provo and Ogden:


Market Cap (billions)

CAPS Rating

Zions Bancorp (NASDAQ:ZION)



Questar (NYSE:STR)



Huntsman (NYSE:HUN)



Data taken from Motley Fool CAPS and current as of 5/11/07.

OK, so the largest companies in town hardly get our investor pulses racing. A regional bank, yet another natural gas exploration outfit, and a basic materials specialist -- as pedestrian and generic as you can get.

But scrape below the topsoil, and a very interesting pattern emerges. Among the 29 tickers my Capital IQ screen presented, 11 companies fall in the high-octane medical-sciences sector. That includes both of the two current five-star stocks in this local market and two of the four four-star companies, as well as Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection Myriad Genetics (NASDAQ:MYGN).

When Charly Travers picked Myriad for the newsletter in September 2005, he noted that its cancer drugs were still in early stages of development, but that the science was strong and worth the investment. "It will take a couple years for these drugs to emerge as valuable assets," Charly said, "so Myriad should be viewed as a long-term holding." Since then, the stock has more than doubled in value. Today, Myriad is a four-star CAPS stock, torn between players appreciating its brain-cancer and Alzheimer's programs and those wary of an inflated share price and the whims of the FDA.

But the high-risk, high-reward fun in this onetime Olympic host city doesn't stop there. The software sector is well represented, including five-star Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Omniture (NASDAQ:OMTR) and much-maligned Unix code wrangler SCO Group. And if you're intent on energy stocks after all, there's a Rule Breaker in that corner of the market too: Headwaters (NYSE:HW) is an expert at recycling the waste of others into usable fuels and building materials.

Foolish finale
Utah allows companies to run unregulated banking operations under some circumstances, making the state and Salt Lake City a major hub for industrial banks of that sort. But those operations are run by large companies headquartered elsewhere, so you can't buy stock in them directly.

Other major forces in the local economy include the Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) hub at one of the 20 most-trafficked airports in the world, and the Mormon Church. Nicknamed "Crossroads of the West" on the basis of central location, strong transportation infrastructure, and a proud history of trailblazing, a strong business culture is to be expected here, though the CAPS community doesn't appear to be sold on the current state of affairs.

But the trailblazing continues in the medical field and other high-tech industries. The payoffs may be a few years removed, but the Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Hidden Gems diggers among us might want to take a long, hard look at Utah.

Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in on the Salt Lake market -- or on any stocks at all, really -- by joining Motley Fool CAPS and blasting away with your ratings and commentary pitches. And if the Rocky Mountains isn't your 'hood, maybe we'll come around where you live the next time.

Further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here but thinks he qualifies as a salty dog, nonetheless. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, or follow him around the world on these Foolish local-business treks. Foolish disclosure is always red-hot.