CNBC: America’s Top States for Business

By July 10, 2007General

CNBC is running a weeklong series, “America’s Top States for Business,” ranking the states’ respective business climates according to 10 weighted (and very sound) categories: cost of doing business, workforce, economy, education, quality of life, technology & innovation, transportation, cost of living, business friendliness, and access to capital.

Senior correspondent Scott Cohn is reporting each day from one of the top five states, and Monday’s location was North Carolina. (See his report here.) North Carolina won first prize in the nation for its workforce, that is, its quality and availability. The strength of the state’s technology and education — Research Triangle was also featured — were other advantages.

Reporting from Jr. Motor Sports — NASCAR helps the economy! — Scott made two observations about the workforce which reporters often overlook: There is some unemployment, 4.8 percent, which means that workers ARE available. Also, few employees belong to unions; North Carolina is a right-to-work state.

The union question prompted an interesting discussion (here) between Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee and Marybeth Maxwell of the labor-oriented American Rights at Work. Mix makes the irrefutable point: Business growth is occurring much, much faster in right-to-work states. From our point of view, that’s largely because labor unions often create inflexible work conditions, less able to respond efficiently to the competitive demands of a dynamic, global economy. And every so often, a strike can destroy your business.

Not all is rosy in the Tar Heel State, of course. The North Carolina Chamber recently issued the first-ever “State of North Carolina Business Report,” which found a high level of dissatisfaction with the state’s tax burden, and half of those surveyed said the tax structure was a deterrent to doing business. Accordingly, “60 percent of poll participants said that reducing the cost of doing business — such as addressing taxes, healthcare and workers’ comp costs, and legal reform — was the best economic growth strategy.”

High taxes — perhaps the difference between ranking No. 5 and ranking No. 1?

A good series. We’ll keep watching.

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