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CNBC's Top States For Business 2009: Top-Five Countdown To The Winner

Thursday, 23 Jul 2009 | 10:37 AM ET

Given the dramatic change in the nation’s economy in the past year, you'll find more than the usual number of surprises in the 2009 edition of Top States For Business.

Top States for Business: #5
Discussing the best places do business in the U.S.A., with CNBC's Scott Cohn.

Let's start with the state that finished No. 5—Utah. The Beehive State, which finished third last year, lost ground mostly because it slipped quite a few spots in the key Economy category. Utah, however, barely budged in many categories and actually improved in a couple of others.

We're counting down the top-five states on CNBC today, culminating with the announcement of the 2009 winner at about 2:30 p.m. ET on "Street Signs." So check back here during the day to get the latest on the winners and for full rankings.

You'll also find interesting economic profiles of all 50 states.

Take Utah, for instance. It is a state of contrasts. It has one of the lowest jobless rates in the county, but one of the highest foreclosure rates. And given its population, it also has has a relatively high projected budget gap for 2010 ($1 billion).

One more thing: Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) was recently tapped by President Obama to be Ambassador to China.

While Utah slipped this year, the state finishing No. 4 made a nice move up in the rankings—Iowa. The Hawkeye State, which finished ninth in 2008, squeaked by Utah by a single point in 2009. (Watch video.)

Iowa moved up in several categories, ranking first in one of them. (You’ll have to wait to find out.)

Like Utah, however, the economy played a role in Iowa’s overall showing, but it also benefited from some fine-tuning of our categories and criteria, which affected weightings.

Iowa’s low unemployment rate isn’t much worse than Utah’s, but its foreclosure rate is one of the lowest in the country.

Coloradomoved up to No. 3, after a fifth-place finish in 2008. The state has showed remarkable consistency over the two years, with little change in many categories and is arguably the most balanced in the various individual categories. (Watch video.)

The Centennial State managed three other top-ten showings and made the top 20 in two other categories some may find surprising--Access To Capital and Technology & Innovation.

That said Colorado trailed the No. 1 and No. 2 states by dozens of points.

Texas is our runner-up for 2009, falling just a few points shy of winning for the second year in a row. In finishing No. 2, the Lone Star State lost a bit of its shine, thanks to the slump in the energy sector, but it still finished first or among the top ten in a number of individual categories. (Watch video.)

The #1 State for Business
Revealing the top state for business in the U.S., with Timothy Kaine, governor of the top state, and CNBC's Scott Cohn.

It’s far to say, that Texas’ loss is as much a result of the winner’s gain as anything else. For a big state with several million-plus urban centers, Texas has a surprisingly low jobless rate. Its projected budget deficit is also low on a per capita basis.

Virginia reclaims the title of America’s Top State for Business this year, squeezing past last year’s Top State, Texas, by a nose—just four points. Virginia, always a solid performer across the board, managed just enough improvement in the right areas—like Economy (7 vs. 17 last year)--to regain the title it won in 2007.