On the one hand, Georgia having the best business climate is old news. Those who follow our annual ranking of state business climates will recall that this has been the case for the past six years. So, what else is new? On the other hand, it is big news. Georgia has done it again, as the cover story explains. Any state at the top of that ranking for seven consecutive years is doing something right.
Half the ranking is based on objective data, as the methodology makes clear, and half is based on what site location experts in the corporate and consulting worlds tell us. Year after year, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the national and global connectivity it affords is mentioned as a leading factor by survey respondents. Georgia’s universities, transport infrastructure and fiscal health get mentioned, too.
There’s a whole feature article on Georgia’s win in this issue, so I want to give credit here to some other states that consistently perform well in this exercise. North Carolina kept its second place finish this year; it shares many location attributes with Georgia when you think about it. Ohio (third place) and Texas (fourth) traded places relative to the 2018 ranking. South Carolina remains in fifth place, with Virginia joining the Palmetto State on that rung this year.
Remember: Half the ranking is based on what the site experts tell us. Their top five list is: Texas first, followed by South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. It would seem the Southeast still has a firm grip on the business attraction bus’s steering wheel. My colleagues and I congratulate the economic development offices and state leaders who are behind these strong performances.
As 2019 draws to a close, we can’t help but wonder what 2020 will bring with respect to two issues, both of which are covered expertly in this issue and both of which can affect state business climates to varying degrees. They are Opportunity Zones and incentives reform. The former is still unfolding in most states as investment ramps up here and there. It remains to be seen whether they result in the ways they were intended to or if the notion looked better on paper.
The other issue, incentives reform, will be the squeakier of the two wheels in the near term. Resistance to their use is growing on multiple fronts, and they remain low on capital investors’ lists of site criteria, if they make it on there at all. Let us know your thoughts about incentives’ merit in the comments section of that article online.
Meanwhile, we appreciate your readership throughout 2019, and we look forward to bringing you another year of economic development insight in the year ahead.
Till next time,
Mark Arend, Editor in Chief