Washington in tie for 25th in Area Development’s 2015 Top States for Doing Business rankings

Area Development magazine is out with its latest rankings of top states for doing business. We’ve written before about the subjectivity of these “business climate” rankings. Those concerns still hold. Yet there is some value in having the chance to see ourselves as others see us

Tied for 25th with New Jersey is not where most Washingtonians would see the state. The top five states, in order, are: Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. The rankings continue a common theme in site selection evaluators preference in these kinds of rankings for low cost, right-to-work states primarily in the Southeast.

…Area Development is publishing our sixth annual Top States for Doing Business survey of site consultants, ranking the states based on their number of mentions by the consultants in three overall categories and 18 subcategories, Business Environment, Labor Climate and Infrastructure and Global Access.

Here’s how Area Development frames the evaluation:

States that consistently rank at the top for business performance know what it takes to be successful — an attractive business environment (taxes, incentives, permitting), labor pool (cost, availability, education, skill level, training), and infrastructure/global access (transportation infrastructure, energy costs, intermodal capabilities, certified sites). When combined with a creative and proactive state economic development team, these advantages can seem irresistible to companies that are looking to locate or expand their operations. Companies want a quick, seamless startup. With an ever-widening global market, they need a well-integrated, modern transportation infrastructure to be competitive in these markets.

For a more complete view of the top 25 states, go here. Washington posts its highest marks for competitive utility rates, smart grid & reliability, and water outlook. 

Opportunity Washington agrees with the consultants’ emphasis on education and training (our Achieve priority), infrastructure (Connect), and competitive tax and regulatory policies (Employ). We may disagree some about weights and measures, but there’s no dispute regarding the importance of a skilled workforce, access to postsecondary education, an efficient transportation network, and competitive business costs.

The perceptions of others, while not reality, nonetheless can influence decision makers. For that reason, if for no other, it makes sense to review the Area Development rankings. Do you agree with them?

And on the theme of perceptions, take a moment to read the Washington Research Council post, the grass is always greener, which takes a look at tax policy debates here and around the country. The WRC also points to the potential increase in the costs of workers’ compensation.

And for a cautionary perspective on the effects of high living costs, read this Puget Sound Business Journal article

Seattle tech industry needs workers to grow but recruiters in the city face competition from burgeoning Midwest tech hubs where workers can get high salaries and with low costs of living.

Bloomberg reports more and more tech workers are choosing the “Silicon Prairie.”

…It’s a lot cheaper and faster to hire in-state tech workers, plus they’re more likely to stay. That’s why more and more tech companies are setting up shop in states where finding labor is cheaper. So far, it hasn’t been a problem for Seattle tech companies, but it could be troubling news as these Midwest tech hubs grow.

Few would have anticipated the competition from the Midwest a decade ago, but the competition doesn’t stand still. That’s why we continue to advocate the Opportunity Washington Priorities for Shared Prosperity. Washington cannot afford complacency.