Top States for Business

America’s Top 10 States for Business in 2015

Locales leading the league

Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Aneese | Getty Images

We score all 50 states on more than 60 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. These include Workforce, Cost of Living, Cost of Doing Business, Infrastructure, Economy, Quality of Life, Technology and Innovation, Education, Business Friendliness and Access to Capital. You can view our complete rankings and methodology here, but these are the states that scored highest—America's Top States for Business 2015. The list of state leaders may surprise you.

—By CNBC's Scott Cohn
Posted 24 June 2015

10. Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa.
Jeremy Woodhouse | Getty Images

The Hawkeye State offers low costs, including the nation's most affordable office space and an idyllic heartland quality of life. Iowa has been a proud right-to-work state since 1947, but workforce training programs are lacking. Access to capital is limited.

  • Total points: 1,455 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Cost of Doing Business (No. 8)
  • Worst category: Workforce (No. 44)
  • 2014 rank: No. 12

Caption: A monument foreshadows the Des Moines, Iowa, skyline.

9. North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina
Danita Dellmont | Getty Images

The Tar Heel State saw a surge in small-business lending in the past year, helping it to tie California for first place in Access to Capital. The state's powerful economy, hit hard in the recession, appears to have recovered. Poor health hurts the state's Quality of Life ranking.

  • Total points: 1,477 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Access to Capital (No.1—tie)
  • Worst category: Quality of Life (No. 33)
  • 2014 rank: No. 5

Caption: The Charlotte, North Carolina skyline

8. Washington

Seattle, Washington.
Lightvision LLC | Getty Images

Inventors were busy in the Evergreen State last year, earning more than 6,400 U.S. patents and helping Washington to first place in our Technology and Innovation category. But the cost of living is high, and road quality is poor.

  • Total points: 1,493 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Technology & Innovation (No. 1)
  • Worst category: Cost of Living (No. 36)
  • 2014 rank: No. 7

Caption: Seattle's iconic Space Needle

7. Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska.
Thinkstock | Getty Images

The Cornhusker State cultivates business with one of the friendliest legal climates in the nation. Unlike many states in the region, Nebraska is managing to hang on to many of its college graduates, and workforce training programs are showing good results. Even so, access to capital can be tough.

  • Total points: 1,497 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Business Friendliness (No. 5)
  • Worst category: Access to Capital (No. 36)
  • 2014 rank: No. 4

Caption: Modern infrastructure along the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska

6. North Dakota

An oil drilling rig near Watford City, North Dakota, on July 30, 2013.
Getty Images

The domestic oil boom is North Dakota's economic engine, but the Peace Garden State is not resting on its laurels. The state prides itself on a favorable regulatory climate. And while an influx of oil workers helps, the state is doing a good job training its existing workforce. It is also one of the few states increasing support for higher education, which could eventually help North Dakota's poor Technology and Innovation score.

  • Total points: 1,500 out of 2,500
  • Best categories: Workforce (No. 1), Business Friendliness (No. 1)
  • Worst category: Technology and Innovation (No. 41)
  • 2014 rank: No. 10

Caption: Oil-drilling rig in Watford City, North Dakota

5. Georgia

Savannah, Georgia
Sean Pavone | Getty Images

Last year's Top State for Business turns in another solid performance, but the Peach State declines or stays the same in 6 out of 10 categories for 2015. The state's higher-than-average unemployment rate means an ample supply of workers. With the nation's busiest airport and a vital seaport, Georgia is a leader in infrastructure. The economy is growing, and business capital is, too. Poor health hurts the state's quality of life.

  • Total points: 1,507 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Infrastructure (No. 2)
  • Worst category: Quality of Life (No. 36)
  • 2014 rank: No. 1

Caption: A bustling river view in Savannah, Georgia

4. Colorado

Photovoltaic installers in Boulder, Colorado.
Topher Donahue | Getty Images

The economy is still firing on all cylinders in the Centennial State, though analysts are keeping a wary eye on the price of oil. Solid job growth is continuing as Colorado leverages its push toward high-tech and "green" business. That is also making the state a leader in technology and innovation. But the growth has led to increases in wage costs and the price of office space.

  • Total points: 1,515 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Economy (No. 3)
  • Worst category: Cost of Doing Business (No. 36)
  • 2014 rank: No. 8

Caption: Solar power workers make up a growing industry in Boulder, Colorado.

3. Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah.
Kenneth C. Zirkel | Getty Images

Utah added more than 52,000 jobs from April 2014 to April 2015, the largest increase in the nation on a percentage basis. That buzz of activity helped the Beehive State win in the Economy category and finish in the top five overall. The state also logged a top-five ranking in Business Friendliness. Education is a perennial issue here, but Utah showed a marked improvement over last year's 46th-place finish in the category.

  • Total points: 1,556 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Economy (No. 3)
  • Worst category: Education (No. 31)
  • 2014 rank: No. 3

Caption: The Salt Lake City capitol building

2. Texas

Houston shipping channel.
John Zellmer | Getty Images

With two of the nation's busiest airports and the bustling Houston Ship Channel, the infrastructure of the Lone Star State is in a class by itself. So far, the state's big and increasingly diverse economy has withstood a drop in the price of oil, and the state's finances are strong. Poor air quality and inadequate protections against discrimination hurt the state's quality of life, but the state has improved in the category.

  • Total points: 1,580 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Infrastructure (No. 1)
  • Worst category: Quality of Life (No. 33)
  • 2014 rank: No. 2

Caption: The bustling port of Houston

1. Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Dan Anderson | Getty Images

There's more than just water (or ice) in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is turning out some of the nation's best-performing grade school and high school students. A welcoming, healthy state with low crime and a clean environment, quality of life in the North Star State is among the finest in the country. State finances are solid, and with 15 members of the S&P 500 calling Minnesota home, businesses that locate here are in good company. But the tax structure can make this an expensive state for business, and those winter heating bills can make it an expensive state to live in.

  • Total points: 1,584 out of 2,500
  • Best category: Education (No. 2)
  • Worst category: Cost of Doing Business (No. 35)
  • 2014 rank: No. 8

Caption: The Minneapolis skyline at dusk