Top States for Business

America's top 10 states for business in 2017

Oleg Popov | Reuters

Our 11th annual America's Top States for Business study is our most rigorous yet, measuring all 50 states on 66 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. And true to form, the states stepped up to make this year's rankings the most closely contested since we started measuring the states in 2007. To see how your state stacks up, check out the full list. You can also see our methodology and a complete list of sources. When all is said and done, these are America's Top States for Business.


The Ray and Maria Stata Center is shown on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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The Bay State also ties with neighboring Connecticut for most improved state this year, jumping 10 spots, thanks in large part to an influx of business capital. Massachusetts typically does well in Education and Technology & Innovation, and it captures the top spot in both categories this year. But it usually does poorly when it comes to Cost of Doing Business and Cost of Living, and this year it upholds that tradition.

Overall score: 1,522 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Education (No. 1), Technology & Innovation (No. 1)
Worst categories: Cost of Living (No. 47), Cost of Doing Business (No. 45)
2016 rank: No. 20


Nashville, Tennessee
Sean Pavone Photo | Getty Images

A surging economy has stepped up to push the Volunteer State into the top 10 this year, with big growth in construction leading the way. Some of that construction involves roads and bridges — Tennessee has some of the best infrastructure in the nation. And businesses find genuine Southern hospitality in one of America's most business-friendly states. But like many of their neighbors in the region, Tennesseans suffer from poor health, and that brings down the overall quality of life.

Overall score: 1,536 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Infrastructure (No. 2), Business Friendliness (No. 4)
Worst categories: Quality of Life (No. 42), Education (No. 37)
2016 rank: No. 18


Salt Lake City, Utah.
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America's Top State for Business in 2016 slides out of the top five in 2017 as a tech hiring boom shows signs of leveling off, but not before making business a little more expensive. An election-year boost in education spending helped push the Beehive State to the top last year. This year the state returns to more familiar territory, with some of the nation's largest class sizes, near the lowest per-pupil spending and a finish in the bottom tier for the category.

Overall score: 1,548 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Economy (No. 4), Infrastructure (No. 9)
Worst categories: Education (No. 34), Cost of Doing Business (No. 24)
2016 rank: No. 1


Aerial of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington DC, with I-395 freeway on the left, and the Air Force Memorial up middle.
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The Old Dominion, our inaugural Top State for Business back in 2007, is inching forward once again with a return to the top 10. Virginia has one of the smartest workforces in America, with the nation's third-largest concentration of increasingly prized science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers. But Virginia still faces some of the same issues it did in the first year of our study — namely, high business costs and a high cost of living. The state's infrastructure still leaves something to be desired, too, despite billions of dollars in state investment in recent years.

Overall score: 1,552 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Workforce (No. 2), Business Friendliness (No. 7)
Worst categories: Cost of Doing Business (No. 35), Cost of Living (No. 28)
2016 rank: No. 13


Colorado solar installation technology
Helen H. Richardson | The Denver Post | Getty Images

If there is such a thing as being too good, that may be the reason the Centennial State drops out of the top three this year. Colorado's lowest-in-the-nation unemployment is creating worker shortages, driving up wage costs and may be inhibiting hiring. When you can find people to fill jobs in Colorado, they will be part of one of the best workforces in the nation — smart and savvy, but on the expensive side. There are worse problems to have than being a victim of your own success, but Colorado can't afford to ignore its growing pains.

Overall score: 1,562 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Workforce (No. 4), Technology & Innovation (No. 7)
Worst categories: Cost of Doing Business (No. 38), Cost of Living (No. 32)
2016 rank: No. 3


Museum manager Jeff Bell adheres informative backing to gender-neutral signs in the 21C Museum Hotel public restrooms on May 10, 2016, in Durham, North Carolina.
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The Tar Heel State seems stuck in fifth place because sometimes it just can't get out of its own way. Sure, North Carolina is a magnet for innovation, with a great workforce, bargain-basement costs and regulations that are business-friendly. But businesses complain about state laws that could deter young workers from wanting to move there. Under intense pressure from business, the state repealed its so-called bathroom bill, which targeted transgender people. But the state still lacks antidiscrimination protections for non-disabled people and at least temporarily prohibits local governments from enacting protections of their own.

Overall score: 1,568 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Technology & Innovation (No. 6), Workforce (No. 7)
Worst categories: Quality of Life (No. 28), Education (No. 32)
2016 rank: No. 5


The Silver Cindy tanker sails out of the Citgo Refinery dock bound for Mexico with a load of gasoline at the Port of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Eddie Seal | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Lone Star State has been America's Top State for Business three times (2008, 2010 and 2012) and has never finished below second place until this year. What happened? Falling oil prices stunted the economy — Texas has diversified considerably, but energy is still the major industry — pushing unemployment above the national average and complicating the state budget process. It also doesn't help that Texas continues to stubbornly lead the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance, or that its citizens lack basic antidiscrimination protections. Still, fourth place is nothing to sneeze at. Texas remains a juggernaut, with America's top workforce and best infrastructure.

Overall score: 1,602 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Workforce (No. 1), Infrastructure (No. 1)
Worst categories: Quality of Life (No. 37), Education (No. 34)
2016 rank: No. 2


A file photo showing joggers on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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The North Star State continues to follow its offbeat path to competitiveness, charging some of the highest taxes in the nation but insisting that businesses get plenty of value for their money. So far, they're buying it. Businesses are expanding, and the economy is growing. What are they getting for their money? One of the best education systems in the nation and a great quality of life. Say what you will about Minnesota's strategy. It's working.

Overall score: 1,615 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Education (No. 2), Quality of Life (No. 3)
Worst categories: Cost of Doing Business (No. 36), Business Friendliness (No. 33)
2016 rank: No. 4


Atlanta, Georgia
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The Peach State beats Minnesota by just one point, following a much more traditional strategy to attract business. It emphasizes low costs (not always successfully) and business-friendly policies. Georgia has lagged the nation in recovering from the Great Recession, but that is paying dividends by leaving the state with an ample supply of workers, just in time for the boom the state is now experiencing. Education is a perennial problem in Georgia, as is poor health care. Georgia has the nation's fourth-highest rate of uninsured residents.

Overall score: 1,616 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Economy (No. 1), Workforce (No. 3)
Worst categories: Education (No. 33), Quality of Life (No. 28)
2016 rank: No. 8


Workers assemble a Boeing 737 airplane at the company's factory in Renton, Washington
Mike Kane | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon, Microsoft, Costco, Expedia — the list of household names go on, all happily perched in the Evergreen State. Washington climbs to the top of our rankings with the help of the fastest-growing economy in the nation. The workforce is top-notch, and innovation thrives here, creating a magnet for business capital. Living and doing business here can be a bit pricey. The state has no income tax, but a so-called business and occupations (B&O) tax affects some businesses more than others and is the subject of frequent debate. Washington's infrastructure needs work, and job cuts at the state's largest employer — Boeing — have some wondering if this is as good as it gets. But for now, it has gotten pretty good.

Overall score: 1,621 out of 2,500 points
Best categories: Economy (No. 3), Technology & Innovation (No. 3)
Worst categories: Cost of Living (No. 37), Infrastructure (No. 32)
2016 rank: No. 6