Corks are popping all over Richmond as the business network CNBC announced this morning that Virginia is back in the top five of its annual survey of best states for business, ranking number 4. It is the only state in the top five east of the Mississippi. The full Virginia report is here.
The photo on the CNBC page shows a Huntington Ingalls-built warship, but one of the amphibious ships built in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Perhaps the web designers remember that the first time Virginia topped this list as number one the announcement was made from pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding with the future U.S.S. George Bush in the background as Governor Robert McDonnell took the bow.
Governor Ralph Northam will get to enjoy the spotlight this time, and should, but the credit needs to be spread widely. The person doing handsprings should be Stephen Moret, president of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, who has been focused on improving these rankings since coming to Virginia to fix a broken agency its reputation.
Speaker Bill Howell and the others who joined with McDonnell in pushing forward the transportation tax package years ago deserve a nod, as those projects are starting to come on line. Virginia’s rank for infrastructure improved from number 25 in 2017 to number 20 for 2018, and may continue to rise now.
Also improved over last year was the ranking for education. Despite growing costs Virginia’s higher education system, public and private, remains the envy of many other states, but the focus now extends beyond degrees to work-related certifications.
This ranking is a marketing coup with no immediate value to the average Virginian. Staying in the top five over time will have value, however, as more business location or investment decisions start with Virginia on the short list.
Looking at the details there are only a handful of individual categories where the state ranked extremely well (workforce, education, business friendliness) and only two where Virginia was below the median – the related categories of cost of living and cost of doing business. First or second quintile scores in several categories resulted in the good overall score.
Those outliers deserve some attention. A huge component of the cost of living and cost of doing business is the cost of electricity and other forms of energy, and the trend lines there are bad despite the energetic public relations efforts of a certain large utility. Another huge component of both is state and local taxes, which are under growing pressure to rise and where Virginia has a chance to be creative thanks to federal tax reform.
Not a time for any resting on any laurels. But some martinis at lunch are indicated.There are currently no comments highlighted.