While the United States was founded on the principle of equality for all people, the 50 states are decidedly unequal in providing opportunities for business. For companies choosing to locate in the United States, deciding the state in which to base their operations can be very difficult.
To determine America’s best states for business, 24/7 Wall St. identified nearly 50 measures that contribute to the business climate and reviewed them in each of the 50 states. The measures were classified into eight larger categories that independently measured various risks and benefits of doing business in each state. (Click here for a complete methodology.)
The health of a state’s economy, the result of a confluence of factors, is perhaps the most important consideration for businesses choosing a location. The growth of economic output in 2013 in seven of the 10 best states for business was greater than the national GDP growth rate of 1.8%.
Another indication of a healthy economy, the job market, was also strong in the 10 best states for business. All of the 10 states had unemployment rates below the national unemployment rate of 7.4% in 2013. Four of the worst states for business had unemployment rates that exceeded the national rate.
However, while a state’s economy is tied to a host of factors, not all factors benefit businesses in the same way. The business climate in some states was more favorable to companies primarily concerned with minimizing the costs and risks of operating a business. These states, which include North Dakota, Wyoming, and Texas, tended to enjoy ample natural resources, low cost of living, and low regulation.
Some states benefit from a well-educated and highly skilled labor force. They are able to attract businesses that require these skills, such as professional and business services, health and education services, and information. In return, these businesses drive economic growth in these states through technology and innovation. These states include Massachusetts, Virginia, and Minnesota.
While it is emphasized more in some industries than in others, a low cost of doing business is a major reason to choose to operate in a particular state. The average cost of goods and services in six of the best states for business was lower than the national average. This was generally driven by beneficial tax climates, lower expenses from utilities and real estate, and lower average employee compensations.
Although the type and size of operating costs vary considerably between industries, wages are a major expense for many businesses. The average wage and salary in three of the 10 best states for business was roughly inline with the national average of $50,012 in 2013, while in five other states, average wages were below the national figure.
While lower wages lower the cost of doing business, they are also frequently tied to jobs with lower educational attainment. Among the five best states for business with lower than average wages, three had lower educational attainment rates than the national figure. In these states, including North Dakota and Wyoming, the prevalence of industries that require high-skilled labor was also relatively low.
Nevertheless, the percent of STEM jobs in a majority of the best states for business — jobs related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics — was generally high. At least one in five of all jobs in eight of the 10 best states for business were STEM jobs. On the other hand, the percent of jobs in STEM fields was relatively low in the worst states for business.
In addition to a highly-educated labor force, access to capital can also drive innovation in a state. In 2013, 13.26 venture capital deals were made per 1 million Americans. In seven of the worst states for business, there were fewer than three such deals per 1 million residents. In the best states, on the other hand, investments were far more likely. In Massachusetts, there were 57 venture capital deals made per 1 million state residents, by far the highest nationwide.
These are the best (and worst) states for business.