The Biggest Gains: Rhode Island, Michigan

Rhode Island and Michigan gained the most from last year's Best and Worst States for Business ranking.


The two states that made the biggest gains from last year’s Best and Worst for Business ranking:

Rhode Island

Rhode Island America’s smallest state jumped the most of any in the 2018 Best & Worst list because over the last three years, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and the state’s legislature, economic development and business communities finally decided enough was enough. The state eliminated or cut consumption, energy sales, unemployment insurance and other taxes and maintained the region’s lowest corporate income tax. It also overhauled government pensions and has been heavily promoting the changes. CEOs noticed. “This has resulted in 22 companies landing or expanding in Rhode Island in the last two years and more than 30 real estate deals,” says Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island’s secretary of commerce. “Now there are construction cranes all over the place.”


Brembo North America is nearing the 1,000-job level at its brake manufacturing complex in western Michigan, and CEO Dan Sandberg says it’s because the state didn’t take the operation for granted. “We got incentives in the beginning and lots of location support, from the power grid all the way to improving the roads next to our plant,” he says. “When you build a gray iron foundry in this day and age, you need cooperation with the environmental authorities and everyone else.”

Michigan streamlined its business-tax structure at the beginning of the eight-year tenure of Gov. Rick Snyder, which ends this year. And the state continues on that path, eliminating the personal property tax; launching a platform to attract the largest investments, such as those it missed out on in Foxconn and Amazon’s second headquarters; initiating a huge plan to recruit and retain STEM workers; and passing legislation aimed at making it easier to transform urban “brownfield” sites into new enterprises. The results: 540,000 new private-sector jobs, an unemployment rate at about the national average and rising per capita income, says Jeff Mason, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “It’s proven to be an effective strategy.”

The complete listing for the Best and Worst States for Business can be found here.


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