Put the Biggest Gainers on your Radar for States Worth Watching

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Downtown Omaha, Nebraska

A number of Heartland states—Nebraska, Missouri and Michigan—moved up on Chief Executive’s rankings from last year, with several CEO survey respondents backing that up with glowing reviews.

“Nebraska has it all, great state to do business in and [to] live,” said one CEO respondent. “Parts of the Midwest, including Ohio and Michigan, continue to reawaken to business interests and it’s an exciting time to be working there,” said another CEO respondent.

Nebraska moved up seven slots on the list, from No. 27 last year to No. 20 in 2017, and for good reason. The Cornhusker State ranks 7th for Workforce Quality, 11th for Living Environment and 12th for Taxation and Regulation.

According to the Nebraska Dept. of Economic Development, 2012 legislation enhanced the state’s competitive incentives package, called the Nebraska Advantage, to include benefits for large data center projects and a 10-year personal property tax exemption for “Tier 2” mid-sized projects It’s no wonder the state ranked 2nd in the country by CEOs for awareness of incentives. Companies headquartered in Nebraska include Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra Foods, HobbyTown USA and Mutual of Omaha.

Missouri moved up four slots, from No. 29 to No. 25. The Show-Me State ranks No. 31 for Taxation and Regulation, No. 30 for Workforce Quality, and No. 29 for Living Environment. Missouri also is a Top State for Energy/Utilities. The Missouri Energy Initiative, a nonprofit association of public and private-sector entities, united together to enhance energy activities in Missouri. Companies based in Missouri include Emerson Electric, Anheuser-Busch, Arch Coal and Ferrellgas.

Michigan also moved up four slots, from No. 40 to No. 36. The Wolverine State ranks No. 35 for Taxation and Regulation, No. 41 for Workforce Quality, and No. 48 for Living Environment. Michigan is also a Top State for High-Tech. Companies headquartered there include Ford, GM, Gerber and Hummer. In 2013, Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in the nation. Since Michigan’s right-to-work law took effect, its job growth now ranks 16th of the 50 states, according to Capcon at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Mississippi was the overall biggest gainer, moving up 10 slots on the list, from No. 42 last year to No. 32 in 2017. Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, Northrop Grumman, ROXUL BorgWarner and Caterpillar are among the global companies that call the state home. The Magnolia State ranks No. 27 for Taxation and Regulation, No. 48 for Workforce Quality, No. 42 for Living Environment, and is a Top State for Energy/Utilities. A right-to-work state, Mississippi is centrally positioned in the country’s fastest-growing region, and provides industries with a strong competitive advantage, including a highly productive workforce, a welcoming business climate and a strong network of research university partnerships, according to the Mississippi Development Authority.

Pennsylvania moved up seven slots, from No. 36 to No. 29. Companies based there include Respironics, ViroPharma, Airgas and U.S. Steel. The Keystone State ranks No. 34 for Taxation and Regulation, No. 39 for Workforce Quality, and No. 34 for Living Environment, and it is a Top State for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products.The state hosts many biopharmaceutical and life sciences companies, medical devices firms and private contract laboratories, according to the Ben Franklin Technology Center of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The state’s research universities, institutions and medical centers from which biotech innovations emerge attract more than $2 billion of federal research funding. In conjunction with private industry, led by the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Association, the Commonwealth brought renewed focus to the importance of biotech through the Technology 21 initiative.

Utah moved up four slots, from No. 16 to No. 12. The Beehive State ranks 3rd for Workforce Quality, 8th for Living Environment and 15th for Taxation and Regulation, and it is a Top State for Financial Services. The State of Utah has made a strategic investment to drive economic growth through regional workforce development by participation in the ACT’s Certified Workready Communities Academy. The state’s communities will benefit in several ways; proof of the quality of the workforce, it serves as a process to measure and close the foundational skills gaps, and creates systemic alignment to state and regional economic development. Companies headquartered in Utah include Bullfrog International, Hunstman Corp., iBahn, NPS Pharmaceuticals, Questar Corp., Sinclair Oil Corp., SkyWest Airlines and Zions Bancorp.

Louisiana moved up four slots, from No. 37 to No. 33. The Pelican State ranks 33rd for Taxation and Regulation, 46th for Workforce Quality and 41st for Living Environment. Companies headquartered there include CenturyLink, Entergy, Oreck and Taylor Energy. Provision Healthcare in April announced a $100 million capital investment to build a 30,000-square-foot Louisiana Proton Therapy Center in the New Orleans biomedical corridor. The project will create 60 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $100,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project also will result in 63 new indirect jobs, for a total of more than 120 new jobs in the New Orleans area.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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