State of Business: Regularly top four, and No. 1 for second year in a row



(The Center Square) – CNBC may lean decidedly left, but the right-leaning policies of the North Carolina General Assembly the last dozen-plus years have earned the state its second straight top ranking for the network’s America’s Top States for Business.

CNBC also scored the Old North State first in workforce, third in economy, seventh in education and 10th in business friendliness. The network, whose analysis is led by Scott Cohn, incorporated the reveal with retired college basketball legends Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.

All 50 states were measured across 86 metrics in 10 categories. North Carolina scored 1,628 out of 2,500 possible points, higher than a year ago.

The workforce category was highlighted by talking points on an educated workforce and the training available. Stable finances were cited among several points in the judgment of the state economy.

While education was seventh nationally, CNBC chose to point out Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s so-called state of emergency in education. The action is not official, such as when hurricanes strike the coast. Critics of his stance say it’s nothing more than opposition to school choice and his desire to protect and entrench the support of traditional public school teachers, a group along with Cooper that has taken body blows from results of postpandemic testing of schoolchildren.

On a voiceover of the 15-minute segment, Cohn took aim at Republican three-fifths majorities in both lawmaking bodies and said, “Just where the shifting political winds will take this state remains to be seen.”

Republican leadership counters the results are being seen, and right in the CNBC analysis.

“Republicans had a vision and plan when we won control of the General Assembly back in 2010, and improving our state’s business climate was a big part of that,” said Senate President Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “It’s rewarding to see North Carolina prevail over several other qualified contenders.

“We should all celebrate that North Carolina’s business climate continues to be the best in the nation, notwithstanding the governor’s obstructionism and vetoes of business-friendly legislation. His actions have done nothing to slow our momentum.”

Asked what his state of emergency for education means, the governor chose a bully pulpit stance – a strategy he earlier told the audience he will continue to use.

“Right now, you’re seeing Republicans begin the process of short-changing the public schools, putting more money in unaccountable private school vouchers,” said Cooper, who watched one of his three daughters graduate from private school St. Mary’s.

He said not enough money was going into early childhood education and child care as well.

“You top that off,” he continued, “with the potential for legislation – which hasn’t passed yet – that puts culture wars in classrooms. I think all of those things come together to say we’re in a state of emergency here. If we take the steps we need to take, North Carolina can continue on its success in education, and quality workforce. If we don’t, we’re going to have some problems in the future.”

North Carolina’s other categorical rankings were sixth for technology and innovation; sixth for access to capital; 16th for infrastructure; 18th for cost of doing business; 27th for cost of living; and 34th for life, health and inclusion.

There was no ranking in 2020 when COVID-19 broke out. With exception of three times ninth place (2009, 2015, 2018) and once 12th (2013), North Carolina has always been top five since the first ranking in 2007 and eight of 16 times been top four or better.

Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Minnesota rounded out the top five. Alaska was No. 50 to be the worst state for business ahead of Louisiana (49), Mississippi (48), Hawaii (47) and West Virginia (46).

Correlations to government trifectas – meaning a major political party has the governor’s seat and majorities in both bodies of the legislature – were not evident in either good or bad top five. Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and West Virginia have Republican trifectas, and Minnesota and Hawaii have Democratic trifectas.

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