North Carolina unseated Georgia and its eight-year hold on first place in our annual ranking of state business climates this year. It was a race to the finish following last year’s contest, in which the two Southeastern powerhouses tied for the top spot. Both states had remarkable project activity in 2020 and this year, demonstrating that the same location attributes that attracted capital investment in life sciences, electric vehicles and components, logistics, data centers, e-commerce and other booming sectors were at work during the pandemic as were before it.
Noting Georgia’s second-place finish in 2021, Governor Brian Kemp told me in an interview for a sister publication that while first place would have been great once again, he’s happy the Peach State is in the top five. Hopefully, the governors of Texas, Ohio and Indiana — completing this year’s top five — feel the same way. They know as well as we do that there’s no guarantee of a first-place finish. It’s about what our project data tell us and input from surveys of site selectors who provide a splash of subjectivity.
Part of my conversations with North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce Machelle Sanders and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s CEO, Chris Chung, intimated a likely shift in what’s important to those charged with finalizing site options.
You’ll see in the cover story this year’s list of the top 10 criteria, with workforce skills again ranking first. Respondents have a list of about 20 criteria to choose from, including quality of life, which did not make this year’s top 10.
Will future such rankings see quality of life on the top 10 and moving up the list over time? I bet they will. Remote working is here to stay. Policies will vary from company to company, and production workers do not today and will not in the future have the option of working remotely. But plenty of workers do, and they’ll move to where they want to be. Where they want to be will have a lot to do with quality of life, the very definition of which is changing before our eyes. These days, it has as much to do with safety in cities, public education curricula and affordable housing as it does proximity to sporting and cultural events, public transportation access and a warm, sunny climate.
This issue is packed with content and insights to guide you through the changing landscape that is location analysis and site selection in late 2021. Enjoy it with our thanks for your readership this past year and our hopes for a safe and prosperous year ahead for your organization.
Till next time,
Mark Arend, Editor in Chief