Goldman Sachs ventures west for annual meeting in Salt Lake City

Goldman Sachs Group Inc said it will hold its annual meeting in Salt Lake City this year, the first time the Wall Street bank is inviting shareholders to cast their votes at a gathering outside the New York metropolitan area.

"We're delighted to hold our annual shareholder meeting in what has become our second-largest office in the U.S.," Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement provided to Reuters.

Goldman's Utah operation is one of its largest, with 1,500 employees. It is also one of the few offices where Goldman has kept hiring workers amid broader staff cuts the past few years -- partly because of an agreement with the state to boost job growth in exchange for tax cuts.

Goldman's meeting will take place at Goldman's Salt Lake City headquarters at 222 South Main Street at 9:30 a.m. local time on May 23, a day after Blankfein and Utah Governor Gary Herbert attend a graduation ceremony for small-business owners who completed an education program sponsored by Goldman Sachs. The bank committed $500 million to that "10,000 Small Businesses" program in November 2009.

Last year, Herbert pledged to create 100,000 new jobs in Utah in 1,000 days, and Goldman is one of his key partners in that effort. Utah agreed to give Goldman up to $47.3 million worth of tax rebates over 20 years in exchange for meeting certain job and wage benchmarks.

Much of the bank's operations in Utah pertain are in areas such as technology, operations, finance and research.

Goldman is not the only big bank to hold its annual meeting away from its New York headquarters in an effort to promote positive news about its impact on the national economy.

JPMorgan Chase & Co - whose CEO Jamie Dimon takes bus tours to visit the bank's offices and branches around the country - has held its two most recent annual meetings in Tampa, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio. Citigroup Inc also held its annual meeting in Dallas last year.

Changes of venue have not shielded the banks from shareholder initiatives to cut executive pay or anti-Wall Street protesters.

Last year, Citigroup shareholders voted against a pay package for former CEO Vikram Pandit, who stepped down six months later. JPMorgan's Dimon was grilled with questions about multi-billion-dollar losses from a wayward derivatives bet. Both meetings were also met with the same kind of anti-Wall Street protesters that appeared outside of Goldman's meeting in Jersey City, New Jersey, and at Morgan Stanley's meeting in Purchase, New York.

Shareholders at Goldman's meeting will be asked to vote on an investor proposal to strip Blankfein of his chairman role. Goldman had fought inclusion of the item, proposed by an activist investor last year, but the SEC sided with the shareholder.

(Reporting By Lauren Tara LaCapra; additional reporting by David Henry; Editing by David Gregorio)