The Best (and Worst) States for Business

Print Email

6. Wyoming
> Real GDP growth, 2013-2014:
5.2% (2nd highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2014: $47,361 (22nd highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2014: 26.6% (15th lowest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2014: 122 (5th lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 8.8% (10th highest)

While Wyoming’s economy has been sluggish over the past five years, a recent oil boom has made it one of the better states in which to do business. Between 2010 and 2014, Wyoming’s economy grew by just 0.2% a year, one of the slowest growth rates in the country. Due to the implementation of fracking and other new oil drilling technologies in recent years, the energy sectors in Wyoming and a number of other states contributed to the oil production surge nationwide. Between 2013 and 2014, Wyoming’s GDP grew by 5.2% — the second fastest of any state. Wyoming’s economy is highly dependent on the industry, however, and with oil prices on the decline, businesses in the state’s energy sector may not fare as well this year and in the near future.

Low cost of living makes a dollar go slightly farther in Wyoming. Households spend just 27.6% of their median income on homeownership costs, the fifth best affordability ratio of any state.

7. New Hampshire
> Real GDP growth, 2013-2014:
2.2% (21st highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2014: $50,360 (15th highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2014: 35.0% (7th highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2014: 889 (21st lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: -1.9% (8th lowest)

Commercial real estate is more affordable in New Hampshire than it is in any of the other top 10 states for doing business. Labor in the Granite State is also relatively cheap. The average annual salary in New Hampshire is $50,360, slightly less than the $51,552 the typical American worker brings home each year. Despite the relatively cheap workforce, state employers likely get more bang for their buck. More than 92% of adults have completed high school compared to the nationwide share of roughly 87%. Additionally, 35% of adults in the state have at least a bachelor’s degree, higher than the nationwide 30% college attainment rate.

Despite lower than average salaries, financial instability is relatively rare in New Hampshire. Only 9.2% of state residents live below the poverty line, a considerably smaller share than the 15.5% national poverty rate. Similarly, New Hampshire’s economy and businesses within the state have been more resilient than the national economy and businesses across the country. The average unemployment rate across the state has only been 5.2% over the last five years compared to the corresponding 8.0% national figure.

8. Delaware
> Real GDP growth, 2013-2014:
2.9% (8th highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2014: $52,281 (13th highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2014: 30.6% (18th highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2014: 442 (15th lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 8.9% (9th highest)

Through various loopholes and lax regulations, Delaware has established itself as a domestic corporate tax haven. Large companies that would face heavy taxes in the rest of the country instead pay a fee to incorporate in Delaware and are subsequently spared significant tax burdens throughout their corporate tenure. The legal addresses of more than half of all U.S. publicly traded companies are in Delaware, a bulk of which are in the same building. Also, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform report, Delaware ranks first in how effective businesses perceive its legal system to be.

Delaware also fosters a friendly environment towards technological innovation. More than one-fifth of all jobs in the state are in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math — one of the highest such shares nationwide. In 2014, 47 patents were issued per 100,000 state residents, more patents per capita than in most states.

9. Texas
> Real GDP growth, 2013-2014:
4.5% (4th highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2014: $52,626 (12th highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2014: 27.8% (23rd lowest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2014: 10,022 (2nd highest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 16.1% (4th highest)

A strong economy is crucial for business growth, and Texas currently has one of the most robust economies in the country. The state’s GDP has grown by an average of nearly 5% in each of the past five years, approximately 2.8 times the national economic growth rate over that time. The state has added new businesses at more than twice the national pace, and has awarded more building permits annually than any other state. Business expenses can often be mitigated by low regional costs of living, and goods and services in Texas cost less than the national average. For example, businesses only pay 8 cents per kwh for electricity, the fifth lowest cost in the country.

Texas may be favorable to oil companies in particular. The state is home to the highest number of refineries of any state, as well as some of the nation’s — if not the world’s — largest oil companies. Exxonmobil, Phillips 66, Valero, and ConocoPhillips are all based in the state.

10. Virginia
> Real GDP growth, 2013-2014:
0.4% (6th lowest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2014: $54,250 (10th highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2014: 36.7% (6th highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2014: 2,078 (20th highest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 7.5% (13th highest)

Certain industries and companies rely on a highly educated workforce, and Virginia is home to one of the most educated populations in the country. Nearly 16% of adults in the state have a professional or graduate degree, a larger share than in all but three other states. Additionally, nearly 37% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree, a considerably larger share than the 30% of American adults with similar educational attainment. With a highly educated population, Virginia is an ideal place for certain types of businesses. More than 23% of jobs in the state are in STEM fields.

However, as salaries typically go up with educational attainment, employers in Virginia tend to spend more on payroll. The typical worker in the state earns $54,250 a year, nearly $3,000 more than the typical American worker.