Notice something missing from our top five this year?
For the first time in three years it does not include North Dakota, which falls to 10th place overall from third last year and fifth in 2012. That is despite the fact that North Dakota's oil boom—now in its ninth year—shows no signs of letting up. In fact, that may be the problem.
Growing pains are taking a toll on the Peace Garden State. Rental costs for industrial space are among the nation's highest. Utility costs are creeping up as well. North Dakota drops to 22nd place from 12th last year in our all-important Cost of Doing Business category. And while North Dakota still has the fastest-growing state economy, the housing market is showing the strain of trying to keep up. That, and the fact that North Dakota's economy is so heavily dependent on a single industry, pushes last year's second-ranked Economy category to seventh this year.
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And what about South Dakota, which surprised many last year as America's Top State for Business?
The Mount Rushmore State is not nearly as reliant on energy production as its northern neighbor. But it is feeling some of the same effects of the region's growth. Last year's Least Expensive State for Business drops five spots in the category. And the state falls to 20th from sixth in the Economy category. As a result, South Dakota falls to 11th overall. It's the first time in the history of our study that a top state one year has fallen all the way out of the top 10 the next year.
Another first in 2014: The first top five that does not include Virginia.
The Old Dominion was our inaugural Top State for Business in 2007; it took top honors again in 2009 and 2011. This year Virginia drops to an eighth-place tie with Colorado. In the past, Virginia benefited from its proximity to the nation's capital. In recent years, Washington gridlock has turned that blessing into a curse. While the Commonwealth improves this year in Cost of Doing Business and finishes in the top 10 for Technology & Innovation, it slips to 29th from 10th in the Economy category.