Maine up in CNBC’s ‘Top States for Business’ listing

Maine has made a small jump in CNBC.com’s annual ranking of the Top States for Business, hitting 35 this year.

Last year, the state ranked 40th. In 2010, it hit 39; 40 in 2009; 44 in 2008 and 42 in 2007. Just to be clear, the best states for business are at the top of the list – Texas is number 1 this year, followed by Utah (2), Virginia (3), North Carolina (4), and North Dakota (5). What are the bottom five? Rhode Island’s at 50, Hawaii’s at 49, West Virginia is at 48, Alaska at 47 and Mississippi at 46.

A positive change in Maine’s ranking in a national listing is welcome news; the state normally knocks around the bottom of lists put out by publications like Forbes (though specific areas like Portland tend to rank well in listings for quality of life, job potential, outdoor activities and the like).

The state Department of Economic and Community Development put out a release on the ranking, tying the improved ranking to efforts made by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

We have successfully reduced regulatory burdens on private sector development, implemented health insurance, welfare and pension reform and lowered taxes,” LePage said in the release. “All of this represents real structural changes to Maine’s overall business climate. “My commitment is to continue building a powerful business infrastructure, skilled work force and creating a culture where jobs and prosperity flourish.”

Each state’s ranked was determined by a combination of 10 categories, each of which were scored separately. Maine improved significantly in the “cost of doing business” category, where it ranked 26th last year, and 19th this year. CNBC.com described the “cost of doing business” category in this way:

Regulation and litigation are the bane of business. Sure, some of each is inevitable. But we graded the states on the perceived “friendliness” of their legal and regulatory frameworks to business.

The state also improved in the categories of work force, quality of life, infrastructure and transportation, education, technology and innovation, and business friendliness (going from 31 to 21).

It went down in rankings including the “economy,” going from 34 to 42; access to capital, going from 30 to 46; and stayed level in the cost of living category at 39 for both years.

Is Maine improving? Yes. Can we do even better? Yes. We are proactively reaching out to Maine’s business community. More than 200 businesses have already responded to our Maine Business Survey in just three days,” said DECD Commissioner George Gervais in the release. “There feedback is what will drive future policy decisions impacting their bottom line.”

What sort of data did CNBC use to come up with the scores and rankings? You can find out here. It’s a variety, and, frankly, reasonable minds may choose to disagree why a state was ranked higher in a category or dinged.

Take the category of “work force,” for instance. Here’s what CNBC had to say about criteria used in that ranking:

Many states point with great pride to the quality and availability of their workers, as well as government-sponsored programs to train them. We rated states based on the education level of their work force, as well as the numbers of available workers. We also considered union membership. While organized labor contends that a union work force is a quality work force, that argument, more often than not, doesn’t resonate with business. We also looked at the relative success of each state’s worker training programs in placing their participants in jobs.

But that is the case in most of these rankings. I seem to recall that Forbes (or some other publication) dinged Maine on quality of life due to the winters. Oh, really??? Tell that to my Faber snowshoes, buddy!

While we’re on the subject of “quality of life,” here’s a positive sign: Maine is in the top 5 for quality of live, hitting 4, up from 6. Of course, that should be expected for a state where life’s the way it’s supposed to be.