More than a couple states can make a case for most-improved status in CNBC’s 2010 edition of America’s Top States For Business.
On the basis of rankings alone,North Carolina is definitely the most-improved state because it cracked the top five, moving up to No. 4 from the ninth spot in 2009.
But improvement is relative.
Is Texas, the overall winner in 2010, also the most-improved state because its score was higher than it was a year ago as well as that of the 2009 winner, Virginia?
Pennsylvania can also lay claim to the distinction because it moved up the most spots (13) in 2010, from Nos. 33 to 20.
New York, however, increased its total score the most of any state, 126 points, from 1039 to 1165.
And if you combine the two measures, New York again looks like a winner because it moved up 12 spots, from 36 to 24. Unfortunately so does Pennsylvania, which improved its score by 117 points.
So, we may be left with a tie and a raging debate.
What may be more telling is the common ground amid all this improvement.
It’s The Economy
The big driver is the Economy category (worth 314 of the 2439 total points).
New York vaulted from 20 to 2, scoring 202 out of 314 possible points. Pennsylvania doubled its 2009 score of 75 to 150 in moving from 37 to 15.
North Dakota(28/3) and South Dakota(29/4) also made enormous strides in the category between 2009 and 2010.
Like New York and Pennsylvania, that fueled their rise in the overall rankings.
South Dakota moved up to seven from 12, while North Dakota advanced to 12 from 16.
In terms of total points, the North went from 1214 to 1282, the South 1256 to 1360.
As for North Carolina, its improvement in ranking and points in the economy category was negligible, 42/66 in 2009 vs. 37/76 in 2010.
Here’s a look at some other states that showed notable improvement in 2010.
Massachusetts moved from the eighth spot to the fifth.
Tennessee picked up four sports to No. 16.
In the second half, South Carolinawent from 37 to 31 and New Mexico43 to 38.
Some states didn’t manage to the move up the overall rankings much, but they did show distinct improvement in some of the ten individual categories.
In the most-important category, Cost of Doing Business, worth 450 points, Oklahoma moved from 9 to 3, Indiana 13 to 9 and Tennessee 19 to 10.
In Workforce (350 points), movement within wasn’t notable, but three states bear mention. Wyoming went from 16 to 12. Nebraska 24 to 18 and Oklahoma 29 to 22.
Quality of Life, always an interesting category and also worth 350 points, saw Hawaii move from 4 to 1, Colorado 10 to 2 and Montana 21 to 15.
Transportation and Infrastructure(300 points) showed little change.
Technology (250 points) had two interesting movers: Marylandjumped from 14 to 8 andNew Jerseywent from 15 to 9 and Connecticut22 to 17.
Education, another relatively stable category, saw big movement in the second fifth. Rhode Islandjumped from 26 to 14, Missouri 21 to 15 and North Carolina 24 to 18.
In Business Friendliness (175 points), Tennessee advanced from 10 to 6 andNevada20 to 15.
The Access-To-Capital category (50 points) was one of the most dynamic with three new states breaking into the top ten and the two of the biggest moves in any one category. Illinois went from 13 to 6 and Connecticut 17 to 8 and Virginia 18 to 9. North Carolina jumped from 36 to 10, New Hampshire30 to 16 Rhode Island 36 to 23.
Finally, in Cost of Living, Kentucky gained from 9 to 3 and Nebraska 11 to 5, tying two other states. In the second fifth, the big movers wereMinnesota (21/15) and Illinois (23/17).
You may have noticed that Vermont and Oregon were not mentioned. That’s probably because they were two of the biggest losers in the 2010 survey. The former slipped from 30 to 37 and the latter 23 to 18.