Washington ranks 10th in Forbes 2015 Best States for Business

Forbes magazine has released its 2015 “Best States for Business and Careers” report. Washington makes it into the top ten, albeit at Number 10. 

Washington   Forbes

The state does best in growth prospects (#2) and labor supply (#4). Washington falls down in regulatory environment (#30) and quality of life (#34).

The top five states overall are: Utah, North Carolina, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Colorado. (Full list here.) 

Perhaps the most surprising finding for many Washingtonians is the state’s low quality of life ranking. Here’s how Forbes measures it. (Click here for the full methodology.)

Quality of life takes into account cost of living from Moody’s, school test performance via the Department of Education and crime rates from the FBI. We factored in the mean temperature in the state as a proxy for the weather and the number of top-ranked four-year colleges in the state from Forbes’ annual college rankings. We considered the culture and recreation opportunities in the state based on an index created by Bert Sperling, as part of our annual Best Places for Business.

We tweaked a few things within the quality of life category this year. We added commute times from the U.S. Census. We’ve included America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation in past years. This year we factored in select measures with the health rankings that impact employees and their families like air pollution and primary care physicians. Lastly, we dropped the poverty rate component, which mirrored closely crime rates and health scores already factored into the rankings.

Business costs are weighted most heavily in the report. The metrics include labor, taxes, and energy. 

We’ve discussed these indexes before. Clearly, there’s something to be learned by examining the various measures underlying the ranking scheme. The Forbes report, then, provides another way of evaluating Washington’s policies and performance with respect to business conditions. It’s not definitive, but it’s useful.

Earlier this month we released the Opportunity Score, our preferred way of looking at Washington’s performance. We’re skeptical of “best states for business” rankings, for reasons described above. We do, however, believe strongly in assessing how states perform on the core activities that expand opportunity . The Opportunity Score incorporates these priorities for shared priority: Achieve (education), Connect (transportation), and Employ (economic vitality).