June 29, 2011

Top 10 Best States for Business

If you want it done right, do it in the right place

Business friendly may be the oxymoron of the new decade if recent meetings with Wall Street and the White House are any indication. But take a stroll outside the Beltway and you’ll find certain states doing all they can to let businesses “do” business, despite crushing deficits and scant revenue.

CNBC ranks all 50 states in order of most friendly to least. They look at categories such as cost of doing business, work force, quality of life, economy and others.

Alas, Rhode Island, that “biggest little state in the union,” ranks dead last, with an unemployment rate at 10.9% and a corporate tax rate almost as high. Might there be a link? We’ll leave it to politicians and pundits to answer. In the meantime, here are the Top 10 best states for business. (Check out the Top 10 Worst Tax States for Retirees on AdvisorOne.)

1) Virginia

It’s no longer for lovers; it’s for business (or maybe lovers of business). They lost Roanoke, but regained the top spot in CNBC’s ranking. And, as the network notes, a pattern is forming:

“Virginia topped our inaugural study in 2007 with Texas at number two. In 2008, they switched positions and Texas took the title. In 2009, it was Virginia/Texas. In 2010, it was Texas/Virginia.”

The ranking highlights Virginia’s strategic location, friendly business climate and diverse economy.

2) Texas

Bobby Ewing’s dream sequence was a pathetic follow-up to “Who shot JR?”, but they’ve gotta be happy with a follow-up spot in this year’s ranking.

Even though it slipped from the No. 1 spot, according to CNBC, “Texas remains a business powerhouse. It remains tops in Infrastructure and Transportation, and ranks fourth in Technology and Innovation. And a surge in investment helped Texas jump to fourth place in Access to Capital from seventh place in 2010."

3) North Carolina

They’re right next door, but worlds apart.

Fun-loving South Carolina gives us Mark Sanford and his Argentinean mistress; Gov. Nikki Haley’s reported affair with a political blogger and slam-dunk Senate candidate Alvin Greene. Boring North gives us a great work force, first rate transportation and infrastructure and a low cost of business. It’s enough to take the No. 3 spot, but who really cares?

4) Georgia

In "A Man in Full," Tom Wolfe's 1998 fictional skewering of the Atlanta social scene, the author describes businessman Inman Armholster as someone "in every network worth networking with in this whole town."

We’re banking that many businesses in Georgia haven’t read the book, or they’d run the other way. CNBC notes the workforce, transportation and infrastructure and the cost of living are reasons for the high ranking (locals would add bulldogs to the list). The state also scored relatively well in the “business friendliness” category; after all, it is the South.

5) Colorado

Think Colorado and you think healthy and active. It’s a lifestyle that translates to business, and the state ranks high in both. Colorado received strong marks in the work force, quality of life and business friendliness categories. The beer and skiing aren’t bad either.

6) Massachusetts

A Republican wins the “Kennedy” seat and it all goes to Hell. Okay, not quite, but the network notes Massachusetts drops out of the top five states this year, finishing at No. 6 overall.

“The Bay State lost ground in our work force category because of a shrinking pool of available workers. And the state's vaunted Education system slipped a bit — to fourth place from first — because school class sizes increased relative to other states.”

7) Minnesota

It’s really cold; nothing else to do but work. A high ranking in the quality of life (what?) and education categories upped their average score, although the mansions along Lake Minnetonka also scored well.  They take the No. 7 spot, despite a collapsed roof that buried Brett Favre’s career.

8) Utah

The only state to not officially participate in the Great Depression, its legacy of hard work and self-reliance lives on and garners the No. 8 spot. Business friendliness and work force were the categories most responsible for the ranking. Call them busy as bees. Hardworking, friendly people will attract capital every time.

9) Iowa

The Hawkeye State scored extremely well in several important categories: Cost of business, economy and cost of living. Put the three together and it’s a winning trifecta for rural mid-America.

10) Nebraska

Nebraska rounds out the top 10. Business friendliness, cost of living and economy are most responsible for their placement. Sure, but without the Cornhusker boosters, what else have they really got?  

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Check out other Top 10 Lists on AdvisorOne.

Check out the Top 10 Worst Tax States for Retirees on AdvisorOne.

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