The Best (and Worst) States for Business

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5. Delaware
> Real GDP growth, 2012-2013: 1.6% (20th lowest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2013: $51,093 (12th highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2013: 29.8% (19th highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2013: 453 (15th lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 8.9% (15th lowest)

Based on several factors, Delaware’s regulatory climate was the most favorable nationwide for business. With high percentages of tech workers and strong independent investments, Delaware is also among the best states for innovation. More than 21% of all jobs in the state were STEM jobs, the eighth highest proportion in the country. The average venture capital investment of nearly $14.2 million per deal in 2013 — the second highest such figure nationwide — also reflects the high level of innovation and easy access to capital in the state.

Not so strong was Delaware’s infrastructure, which rated worse than most states. However, the consequence for businesses may be relatively small as businesses are concentrated in industries not especially dependent on transportation. For example, the financial industry, in which goods and services are relatively intangible, accounted for 42.1% of state GDP in 2013, the highest such contribution nationwide.

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4. South Dakota
> Real GDP growth, 2012-2013: 3.1% (9th highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2013: $36,818 (the lowest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2013: 26.6% (17th lowest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2013: 129 (6th lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 3.7% (6th lowest)

No state had a lower cost of doing business than South Dakota. In particular, the cost incurred from wages was the lowest nationwide, with a statewide average wage of just $36,818 in 2013. While residents have relatively low wages, they also have a generally high quality of life and low cost of living. For instance, there were 78.8 art, entertainment and recreation establishments per 100,000 state residents in 2012, the second highest rate and nearly double the comparable national figure. South Dakota also boasts affordable housing and low tax burdens. The annual median cost of owning a home was equal to 28.2% of the median household income in 2013, among the lowest affordability ratios. In fiscal 2011, state residents paid 7.1% of their incomes in state and local taxes on average, nearly the lowest tax burden nationwide. Both businesses and the working age population benefitted from a low unemployment rate. Just 3.8% of the labor force was unemployed in 2013, the second highest rate in the county.

3. Wyoming
> Real GDP growth, 2012-2013: 7.6% (2nd highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2013: $45,751 (23rd highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2013: 26.6% (17th lowest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2013: 113 (3rd lowest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 8.8% (3rd lowest)

With the best tax climate for business in a recent Tax Foundation report, and the lowest cost of living in the nation, Wyoming was especially affordable for businesses. The state had the lowest cost of living of any of the 50 states while at the same time the local per capita personal tax burden as a percentage of per capita income was the lowest in the country. But while Wyoming scored well in most categories, the state fared poorly in several particular metrics. For instance, it had the nation’s worst gender income gap. One anomaly within the state is in education. While Wyoming had the best high school graduation rate in the country of 93.5% — at least partially a result of spending $17,758 per student, the third highest expenditure in the country — it ranked next to last in the country with only 11 post-secondary schools within its borders.

2. Massachusetts
> Real GDP growth, 2012-2013: 1.6% (23rd lowest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2013: $60,307 (3rd highest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2013: 40.3% (the highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2013: 6,409 (4th highest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: -0.6% (4th highest)

Massachusetts led the nation in technology and innovation, due in large part to the high volume of research institutions, highly educated workforce, and the abundance of technology and science positions. Nearly 24% of all jobs in the state were STEM jobs, second only to Washington. And Massachusetts was home to 185 post-secondary schools, one of the highest figures. Also, more than 40% of state adults had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, the highest proportion in the country. Many college grads likely helped bolster innovation in the state. There were 6,409 patents issued to Massachusetts residents in 2013, the fourth highest figure in the nation.

Although the cost of living was very high compared to the other best states for business, this did not lower the high quality of life of many Mass residents. Less than 4% did not have health insurance in 2013, the lowest rate nationwide. Partly as a result, the United Health Foundation ranked the state third in the country for health.

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1. Utah
> Real GDP growth, 2012-2013: 3.8% (7th highest)
> Average wages and salaries, 2013: $42,693 (16th lowest)
> Pct. of adults with bachelor’s degree, 2013: 31.3% (14th highest)
> Patents issued to residents, 2013: 1,228 (23rd highest)
> Projected working-age population growth, 2010-2020: 20.5% (23rd highest)

Utah is the best state in the nation for business, faring among the best in all of the categories reviewed in 24/7 Wall St.’s independent business climate assessment. Over the 10 years from 2010, the state’s working-age population is projected to grow by 20.5%, the second highest among all states and more than four times the estimated national average growth rate. Businesses are also choosing to locate in the state as the number of non-government establishments grew by 2.5% in 2012, the second fastest growth rate and also twice the comparable national growth rate. In addition to an expanding workforce and business community, residents and businesses alike have the benefit of affordable housing and a safe and high quality of life. Owning a typical home cost 27.6% of the median household income, one of the lowest affordability ratios. There were also 209 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents, the eighth lowest violent crime rate in the nation.

Utah also had among the most well-functioning transportation infrastructures, ranking among the highest in this category. Zero miles of state roads were in disrepair in 2013. The percent of deficient bridges in the state was also the fifth lowest nationwide. Workers had an average commute time of 21.2 minutes, one of the lowest in the country.

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