Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States for Business

Source: Thinkstock

21. Nebraska
> 1-yr. real GDP change: +0.9% (14th smallest growth)
> Avg. salary: $45,262 (15th lowest)
> Adults w/ bachelor’s degree: 31.4% (19th highest)
> Patents issued/100,000 people: 16.4 (15th fewest)
> Working-age population chg. 2020-2030: +6.7% (18th largest growth)

Cost of living in Nebraska is nearly 10% lower than the national average, a boon for both businesses and residents. In addition to generally having lower costs, businesses also benefit from possible higher disposable income of residents. Just 34.7% of business owners in Nebraska report a negative impact attributable to slow business or lost sales, and just 26.9% report a negative impact from late or non-payment from customers — each among the smallest such shares of any state.

Not all aspects of business are good for entrepreneurs in the state. About 56% of Nebraska business owners surveyed claim taxes negatively impact their operation, the largest such share of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

22. Alaska
> 1-yr. real GDP change: -5.4% (the largest decrease)
> Avg. salary: $56,838 (9th highest)
> Adults w/ bachelor’s degree: 29.6% (tied — 25th lowest)
> Patents issued/100,000 people: 5.4 (2nd fewest)
> Working-age population chg. 2020-2030: -7.4% (16th largest growth)

Alaska is one of the nation’s largest producers of crude oil and natural gas, and like most states with a large oil and gas sector, the state’s economy has taken a hit in the past few years due to depressed energy prices. The state’s GDP contracted by 5.4% between 2015 and 2016, and the state’s annual unemployment rate of 6.6% is the second highest among states.

While Alaska’s economy is struggling at the moment, the state’s businesses benefit from a consumer base that is likely to be able to spend more on consumer goods and services. The median household income in the state of $76,440 a year is the second highest in the country. Alaska is one of just six states with a poverty rate below 10%.

Source: Thinkstock

23. Michigan
> 1-yr. real GDP change: +2.2% (12th largest growth)
> Avg. salary: $50,552 (19th highest)
> Adults w/ bachelor’s degree: 28.3% (16th lowest)
> Patents issued/100,000 people: 56.0 (9th most)
> Working-age population chg. 2020-2030: +6.7% (the largest decrease)

One of the biggest advantages businesses in Michigan benefit from is the state’s low cost of living. Goods and services are 6.5% less expensive in Michigan than they are on average nationwide — and businesses benefit. Not only does a low cost of living provide consumers with more disposable incomes, but also Michigan has the second lowest average commercial retail estate costs of any state.

However, new and relocated businesses in Michigan may have trouble filling positions with qualified candidates in the coming years. Over the decade between 2020 and 2030, the working age population in Michigan is projected to decline by 6.7%, the steepest drop of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

24. Arizona
> 1-yr. real GDP change: +2.6% (8th largest growth)
> Avg. salary: $49,432 (22nd highest)
> Adults w/ bachelor’s degree: 28.9 (tied — 22nd lowest)
> Patents issued: 36.6 (17th most)
> Working-age population chg. 2010-2020: +10.8% (6th largest growth)

Arizona’s economy has shown signs of strengthening recently. State GDP grew by 2.6% in 2016, a positive sign for the state’s businesses. Also, the state’s economy will likely continue to grow in the years ahead. The state’s working-age population is projected to grow by 10.8% between 2020 and 2030, a further sign business is booming and that state employers will have a large talent pool to draw from.

The state’s business environment is far from ideal, however. Arizona’s poverty rate of 16.4% is one of the highest in the country. The state also has below average educational attainment rates at both the high school and college level.

25. Delaware
> 1-yr. real GDP change: +0.1% (2nd smallest growth)
> Avg. salary: $53,148 (14th highest)
> Adults w/ bachelor’s degree: 31.0 (tied — 20th highest)
> Patents issued: 37.9 (16th most)
> Working-age population chg. 2010-2020: +6.3% (20th largest growth)

Functional and reliable transportation infrastructure are important for many businesses to succeed. In Delaware, just 4.9% of bridges are considered structurally deficient and 3.9% of roadways are in poor condition — each well below the respective 9.1% and 6.6% shares across the United States as a whole. Businesses in the state also report benefitting from a low tax rate. Just 42.9% of business owners surveyed cite taxes as a negative impact on their operation, the third smallest share of any state.

Not all conditions in Delaware are ideal for businesses, however. Traffic congestion is a considerable problem. Congestion cost the trucking transportation industry an average of $323,713 per mile in 2016, the second highest loss attributable to congestion of any state.