CNBC’s annual list of "America’s Top States for Business" is out, and Virginia has slipped further — now we’re down to number five (tied with Utah). After finishing first for three years (2007, 2009, and 2011), we dropped to third place last year, and dropped further in 2013.
1. South Dakota
3. North Dakota
Why? CNBC ranked the states by a number of criteria, essentially boiling down to "where is it cheapest and easiest to have a business." So "cost of doing business" — taxes, utilities, wages, and real estate — is high on the list, and that was our first big stumbling block.
Infrastructure and transportation, which knocked Virginia to third place last year also hurt us this time around.
We measured the vitality of each state’s transportation system by the quantity of goods shipped by air, waterways, roads and rail. We looked at the availability of air travel in each state, the quality of the roads, bridges and the water supply, as well as the time it takes to commute to work.
Gov. McDonnell’s transportation initiative should be a big help in that category, but the effects of that won’t be felt for several years.
There’s certainly plenty of silver lining. Being "great for business" isn’t the be-all and end-all of rankings, and it doesn’t equate to "a great place to live." In fact, when you look at what states are good for business and which have the highest quality of life, they don’t match up.
Hawai’i, for example, is tops for quality of life, but bottom of the business list. Vermont’s quality of life up at number two, but it’s number 32 for business. (There’s certainly overlap. Nebraska ranks high for both, as do North and South Dakota.)
Clearly we have work to do if we want to keep attracting businesses, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a lot of other things matter, too. (South Dakota? Would you really rather live there?)