NH moves up to 21st in magazine's 'Best & Worst States for Business' listBy DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 10. 2015 8:11PM
New Hampshire ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to business-friendly states, according to the 2015 survey “Best and Worst States for Business,” by CEO magazine.
Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia were rated the best states for business in 2015 in the survey of chief executives, while California ranked last, followed by New York and Illinois.
“The results of our 11th annual survey clearly show that CEOs favor states that foster growth through progressive business development programs, low taxes and a quality living environment,” the magazine editors wrote.
New Hampshire was ranked 21st, up from 24th last year and 26th in 2013.
In the annual survey, completed this year by 511 CEOs, states are measured across three categories to achieve their overall ranking: Taxes and regulations, quality of the workforce, and living environment, which includes such considerations as quality of education, cost of living, affordable housing, social amenities and crime rates
New Hampshire earned 3 1/2 stars out of five on taxation/regulation, and four stars on quality of workforce and living environment.
“Executives report that New Hampshire has a high quality workforce, along with a family-friendly living environment, but the economy has stagnated,” the magazine reported, citing a state growth rate from 2012-2013 of 0.90 percent, to compared to the overall U.S. economy that grew 1.8 percent in the same time period. The state’s population was essentially flat over the past year, declining by slightly more than 1,200.
State and local tax burden in New Hampshire consumes 8 percent of income, compared to a national average of 9.8 percent, which helps the state’s ranking. “Bipartisan progress helps leverage the state’s long-time, low-tax advantages,” according to the magazine.
A similar survey by Forbes magazine in November ranked the state as 35th most friendly for business and careers. While the CEO magazine rating incorporated the opinions of executives, the Forbes ranking was based strictly on data.
“It’s interesting to compare the two,” said the state’s economic development director, Carmon Lorentz. “One is more subjective, surveying people about perceptions of business friendliness, while the other is based on objective data.”
Lorentz says she finds a common thread in all the surveys, which is that New Hampshire consistently comes out in the top of Northeastern states.
New Hampshire is never going to be ranked like Texas or Florida, she said, “But if a company is looking for a Northeast location because that’s where they need to be, then New Hampshire will rise to the top.
The fact that we are doing well compared to our peers is encouraging to me. Of course, we never rest on our laurels, but we do feel very good that New Hampshire consistently fares well in these reports.”
Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York were in the bottom 10 of the CEO Magazine ranking, with Maine at 36.
Given New Hampshire’s high energy costs, the magazine editors note that, “Discussions around clean technology could drive future growth.”
“If you look at one of our biggest challenges, energy, that makes sense,” Lorentz said. “Wherever there is a problem, there is a business opportunity.”
Jim Roche, president of the state’s Business and Industry Association, noted that energy costs were not a factor in the rankings.
“If they were, our ranking would very likely be much worse,” he said. “New England businesses and residents paid $2 billion more for electricity during the winter just ended than we did during the winter of 2011-12, a more normal winter with a balanced supply of energy to meet demand.”
Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said no single survey or analysis paints a complete picture of the state’s business environment.
“New Hampshire fares well in a lot of indicators,” he said, “but if we want to use this as a tool for economic development we have to get a finer lens on the question. Clearly, we are not going to do well with a firm that is incredibly reliant on electricity, but a high-tech firm more focused on R&D would have a different perspective.”