When CNBC launched America’s Top States for Business in 2007, it was the perfect time to begin keeping score.
The U.S. economy was still expanding — if barely. With the housing market slowing and a recession just over the horizon, the competition between the states for business and jobs had grown intense.
Now, as we prepare to reveal our sixth-annual rankings, some things have changed and others have not.
The economy is slowly coming back, after cratering in 2008-2009. The housing market is still a mess, but showing some signs of life. The Great Recession blew a hole in state finances that governors and legislators are still trying to fill, with mixed success.
Bloodied but unbowed, America’s Top States for Business are on the comeback trail.
The one thing that has not changed is the intensity of the competition. With jobs still in short supply, states are fighting as hard as ever, with slick marketing campaigns and sophisticated websites designed to dazzle business leaders considering a new home.
Virginia and Texas, which have see-sawed as No. 1 and No. 2 since our study began, have settled into a friendly rivalry. We understand that in recent years, fellow Republican governors Rick Perry of Texas and Robert McDonnell of Virginia have taken to calling each other before and after our rankings come out. A Virginia ham versus Texas barbecue bet might not be far off, except that our perennial top two have some stiff competition.
North Carolina, always a business powerhouse, came within a hair’s breadth of the top two in 2011, losing to Texas by a mere 39 points (out of a possible 2,500). With an improving economy, might the Tar Heel state make a run for the top this year?
And what about Wisconsin, which finished in the middle of the packin 2011 at 25th? Gov. Scott Walker claimed his union-busting moves would help close the budget gap and improve the Badger State’s business climate. He endured a fierce recall campaign as a result, and survived. But will he get the really big payoff: an improvement in Wisconsin’s ranking? We will soon find out.