Utah has clinched the No. 1 spot in the 10th annual CNBC's America's Top States for Business ranking, based on the quality of its workforce, cost of doing business and other criteria. The Top States for Business scorecard tells the story clearly, and Utah blows past the competition. With a low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and GDP growth of 2.8 percent last year – the third highest in the nation – Utah's strongest success in our ranking came in the Economy category.
Texas, the Lone Star State is No. 2 this year on our list for America's Top States for Business. Texas also finished second last year, and although growth has slowed, the Texan economy is still No. 1 in the country. Despite big budget challenges brought on by low oil prices, state finances are strong.
The job market is healthy, too, with unemployment just below the national average. Texas has no individual or corporate income tax — just a state franchise tax at 0.75 percent. The state and local sales tax tops out at 8.25 percent.
The largest employer in the state is the HEB supermarket chain, and the state's largest industry is mining, including oil and natural gas.
But the perennial weak spot for Texas is Education, where it lands in just 40th place. In the Quality of Life category, Texas drops to 37th. It is also an unhealthy state and has the largest percentage of uninsured residents. Texas is also among the least inclusive states in the nation; it is one of only five states with no anti-discrimination laws for public facilities.
Still, Texas is the only state to finish in the Top States' Top 5 in all 10 years of the study, including top finishes in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Tune in to Closing Bell later today for the reveal of the No. 1 Top State for Business. You can weigh in with your guess on Twitter using the hashtag #Topstates.
Colorado, the Centennial State, comes in third on this year's list for America's Top States for Business, up from a fourth-place finish last year. Colorado's best category ranking was its workforce. It claimed first place in that all-important category thanks to a big influx of college-educated workers. In fact, Colorado's workforce is the most educated in the country. Unfortunately, those smart, educated workers command high wages, which is just one of the reasons Colorado finished 37th in the Cost of Doing Business category.
Taxes, though, are generally on the low side. The individual and corporate tax rate is 4.63 percent and the state sales tax is 2.9 percent, but local taxes can push the total up to 10.4 percent.
With strong job growth (the second best economy in the nation), unemployment in Colorado is well below the national average, coming in at 3.4 percent in May of this year.
Lockheed Martin space systems is Colorado's largest employer and, as in Minnesota, the state's largest industry is professional and business services.
This is Colorado's sixth appearance in the Top States' Top 5, and it ties with 2009 and 2010 for its best finish.
The North Star State took No. 4 this year on the list of America's Top States for Business. Minnesota's best categories are Quality of Life and Education; it came in as second best in the nation. Minnesota's worst category this year is the Cost of Doing Business, where it comes in at 35th — an unfortunate consequence of taxes that are among the highest in the nation. Minnesota has the top individual income tax rate of 9.85 percent and the corporate tax rate is 9.8 percent. State and local sales tax are both 7.875 percent.
Gov. Mark Dayton claims that his state is high-tax, high-value, but job growth and the overall economy have slowed a bit in the last year. Unemployment is well below the national average, coming in at 3.8 percent in May of this year.
Minnesota's largest employer is the Mayo Clinic, and the largest industry is professional and business services.
#5: NORTH CAROLINA
The Tar Heel State comes in at No. 5 on our annual list. North Carolina has a lot of appeal for businesses, but it faces a few challenges that prevented it from rising higher on our Top States list.
North Carolina's best category ranking is access to capital — the second best in the nation. Money flowed into the state last year both from venture capital and small-business loans and helped bump the state from No. 9 in 2015 to Top 5 this year.
This is North Carolina's sixth appearance in our Top 5, with its best finish in 2011, when it ranked No. 3.
However, North Carolina was hit hardest in the Quality of Life category, where it landed in 30th place. The so-called bathroom law has drawn major criticism from business, and North Carolina is also one of only five states with no discrimination protections for non-disabled people using public facilities. Last year, North Carolina ranked at No. 9 on our list, and it had the potential to be higher this year, but the 'bathroom bill' controversy dragged down its ranking.
And although job growth was healthy last year, unemployment remains above the national average at 5.1 percent. North Carolina's individual income tax rate is 5.75 percent and the corporate tax is 5 percent. The state and local sales tax tops out at 7 percent and the largest employer in the state is Wal-Mart.