Vibrant college towns. States that are home to cities with a strong university network — and a lifestyle that makes college graduates want to stay — have an edge in attracting businesses that need talent, said LaBombard.
California fares well in this regard, he said. "Los Angeles and San Francisco are go-to cities for college grads," he added, pointing to Texas as another example: "Austin and Dallas are very vibrant." That shows up in our Workforce category, where Texas finishes in eighth place — a major factor in the Lone Star State's No.2 overall ranking.
Utah's abundant talent pool of recent college graduates helped lure Nate Quigley to Provo three years ago to co-found Chatbooks, a site where users can create photobooks, with his wife, Vanessa. He moved from the Melbourne, Florida, area, where he launched his last start-up. With one of the most educated workforces in the nation based on U.S. Census data, Utah finished 12th for Workforce in our ranking.
Salt Lake City is home to universities such as University of Utah, while Provo is home to Brigham Young University and Provo College. "That just fills the state with lots of great talent," said Quigley.
As a result, Quigley has been able to staff up quickly to 30 full-time employees and 40 part-timers. The company hit $5.9 million in revenue in 2015, he said.
Some states have created formal initiatives to connect local universities to employers. In Georgia, for instance, the High Demand Career Initiative, launched under Gov. Nathan Deal, connects Georgia's public university system and the Technical College System of Georgia so educators can hear from the private sector about what skill and degrees are needed. That way, they can create relevant programs, said Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
After finding out from the state's burgeoning film industry that there was a need for trained crew members, the state created the Georgia Film Academy to train workers with production skills in January 2015. "We've had 15 different companies locate in our state since 2011," said Carr.