Responses ranged from gratitude and affirmation, mostly by the best-ranked states; to expressions of determination to do better, largely from those in the middle; to excuses, deflection and even denial, which came mainly from the worst-ranked states. No governor simply acknowledged, explained or apologized for their state’s shortcomings.
“We’ve talked about our jump just about everywhere we go,” said Rob Nichols, press secretary to Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich, whose state leapt to No. 22 in the latest “Best States / Worst States” list from No. 35 last year.
Mainly in the states with the most explaining to do, a few governors declined to comment directly, preferring to let their economic-development or PR staffs do the talking. Four other governors declined to comment outright: Kentucky, which experienced a drop in the 2013 “Best States / Worst States” rankings to No. 29 from No. 25 in 2012; Maryland, No. 41, down one place; Massachusetts, which remained at No. 47; and New York, which remained at No. 49.
Those who took a swipe at Chief Executive’s rankings such as Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie, whose state slipped to 43rd place, were unaware that the standings are based entirely on a survey of over 736 CEOs nationwide. It is their perception that counts. Chief Executive is neutral. Governors who quarrel with the results should take it up with the job creators themselves.
Here’s how the other surveyed governors responded to the request from Chief Executive (responses edited where indicated), with each state’s new ranking and change from 2012 rankings:
Texas, No. 1, unchanged.
Governor Rick Perry:
This vote of confidence from business leaders across the nation further highlights that Texas is at the epicenter for economic prosperity in this country. I will continue to promote the conservative principles of restrained spending, low taxes, predictable regulations and fair courts that have guided us over the last decade in order to ensure that Texas remains the nation’s healthiest economy for the next 10 years.
Florida, No. 2, unchanged.
Governor Rick Scott:
[Such recognition] highlights the work we have done to make Florida’s business climate the best in the nation. We have worked to remove burdensome regulations, eliminated tax burdens, and have paid down state debt. As a result, we’re creating thousands of private-sector jobs for Florida families every month, and our efforts are being recognized.
North Carolina, No. 3, unchanged.
Governor Pat McCrory (edited):
We’re very proud of our No. 3 ranking this year and are working everyday to ensure that North Carolina is attractive to new and existing businesses looking to locate or expand their operations. We’ve brought a common-sense, growth-oriented approach to economic development which is responsible, in part, for a 40-percent increase in active economic-development projects compared to a year ago … Tax reforms … will allow us to put a stronger emphasis on helping existing businesses expand. Our transportation reforms will connect our centers of commerce with the rural areas and allow us to prioritize infrastructure projects based on need, instead of geography.
Tennessee, No. 4, unchanged.
Governor Bill Haslam:
Good things are happening in Tennessee, and there is a lot of momentum. Along with this honor of being named one of the best states in the country to do business, we rank first in automotive-manufacturing strength for the fourth year in a row, and we continue to focus on our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
Indiana, No. 5, unchanged.
Governor Mike Pence (edited):
Indiana has gained the reputation as one of the top five U.S. states for business for a reason. Our elected officials and business leaders have worked together to create an environment with the fiscal stability and regulatory freedom that entrepreneurs, executives and business owners value. Given the uncertainty businesses feel across the country, we have tried in Indiana to provide greater certainty and predictability. We have honestly balanced our budget and are running a surplus … And we just passed the largest state tax cut in Indiana’s history. At the same time we were cutting taxes, we were busy increasing funds for schools and roads. Together, these policies create a strong, pro-business environment.
Arizona, No. 6, up 4 places.
Governor Jan Brewer:
This is exciting news for Arizona, and a true testament to the work we have been doing to attract businesses to our state. In Arizona, we recognize and respect the crucial role that business has played in our economic recovery. I am thrilled to see that CEOs nationwide have taken notice of our lean regulations, low taxes and high-quality workforce. So long as I am governor, I will continue to make certain that Arizona remains one of the easiest states in the nation in which to do business.
Virginia, No. 7, down 1 place.
Paul R. L. Shanks, Deputy Director of Communications for Governor Bob McDonnell (edited):
Virginia consistently ranks among the top states for business in the nation. The governor’s focus, from day one of this administration, has been to put in place the policies that will help private sector businesses create those jobs in the commonwealth and get our economy on track. Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast. The governor has focused on keeping government spending under control, having a strong right-to-work law, and making historic investments in transportation, economic development and higher education.
South Carolina, No. 8, down 1 place.
Governor Nikki Haley:
By improving South Carolina’s business-friendly climate and developing the skills of our workforce, we’ve seen companies like Boeing, BMW, Bridgestone, Continental, Michelin and others make large new investments or greatly expand their presence in our state. These investments have helped advance our state’s manufacturing renaissance, and generated interest from companies around the globe. More and more of these companies are seeing South Carolina as the right place for their business.
Nevada, No. 9, up 3 places.
Governor Brian Sandoval:
We are thrilled that Nevada was ranked as one of the Top 10 states to do business by Chief Executive magazine. In Nevada, we take pride in maintaining a pro-business environment centered on an able and willing right-to-work workforce, an entrepreneurial culture, and our global reach — all in a low-cost setting. [We] are dedicated to ensuring that our state promotes success in business in the years to come, and recent investments by companies such as Apple, SolarCity, and eBay are proof that we are moving in the right direction to continue our high business-friendly ranking.
Georgia, No. 10, down 2 places.
Governor Nathan Deal:
The state of Georgia works and continues to work tirelessly to ensure that jobs are being created and that it’s people are working. It has been my top goal since I took office to make Georgia the No. 1 state in the country to business. I am proud of the steps we have taken in meeting that goal, and Chief Executive magazine ratings reinforce the great strides our state takes in growing business.
Utah, No. 12, down 3 places.
Governor Gary R. Herbert:
My top priority is jobs and economic development, and that begins with being business friendly, both at the local level and the state level. With low taxes, sensible regulation, affordable energy, a skilled workforce and an unrivaled quality of life, Utah is uniquely attractive to new and expanding businesses.
Oklahoma, No. 14, up 3 places.
Governor Mary Fallin:
As governor, my number one goal is to help create jobs by delivering the most business-friendly environment possible. Oklahoma’s ranking in Chief Executive magazine is a sign that our pro-business reforms are working. We’re going to continue to build on this momentum and to give businesses every reason to locate and stay in Oklahoma.
Wisconsin, No. 17, up 3 places.
Governor Scott Walker:
Since taking office in 2011, my number one goal has been to help the private sector create jobs by establishing a favorable climate for economic growth. Chief Executive’s ranking reflects the improved business climate in Wisconsin resulting from our aggressive strategy to grow the economy, develop our workforce, transform education, reform government, and invest in our infrastructure.
Kansas, No. 19, up 4 places.
Governor Sam Brownback:
We are seeing positive results of the actions we’ve taken to make Kansas an even better state in which to live, work and raise a family. Businesses recognize the advantage of a state with a skilled workforce, a good quality of life and business-friendly policies. Kansas has broken into the “top 20” best states for business and will continue to improve that ranking.
Ohio, No. 22, up 13 places.
It’s great for Ohio workers when the nation’s CEOs see Ohio more and more as one of the best places in the country to do business. It’s incredibly gratifying to see all of our hard work continue to pay off like that. We’re achieving what we set out to do: get Ohio back on track by creating a jobs-friendly climate. We’re not there yet and we’ve got a lot of work still to do, but we’re making real progress and it’s great news for Ohio’s families.
Delaware, No. 27, down 13.
Governor Jack Markell (edited):
All of us want to see more jobs and stronger economic growth in our states and in our country. I am listening to what businesses are telling me and talking to business leaders all the time to find out what they want and what we can do better. Delaware offers new start-ups and expanding businesses a welcoming pro-business environment with the best legal system in the United States; a highly competitive tax structure; skilled and highly educated workforce; and a strategic East Coast location with easy access to key markets. We remain the favored state of incorporation in the United States, while being small and personal.
New Mexico, No. 32, up 1 place.
Governor Susana Martinez:
We’ve improved New Mexico’s tax and regulatory environment, we’re investing in workforce training programs and directed funds to finance critical infrastructure projects to help grow industries and create jobs in the state. Our state is strategically situated to take advantage of growing trade opportunities with Mexico and Latin America. And we are working to reform education and prepare our kids to enter the workforce. New Mexico is open for business.”
West Virginia, No. 34, unchanged.
Keith Burdette, Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Commerce (edited):
The state has enacted pro-growth reforms in taxes saving businesses over $400 million in the past six years. Corporate tax rate reductions during the past two years and additional reductions scheduled for next year plus the scheduled elimination of the Corporate Franchise Tax by 2015 are all being accomplished while maintaining a balanced state budget. The privatization of workers compensation was moved the state’s rates from some of the highest in the country to some of the lowest … The state’s budget health is strong … We are investing in university research, innovation commercialization and other strategic economic development initiatives. Our central position in the rich gas Marcellus and Utica Shale formations is attracting international attention and investment … We anticipate that West Virginia — and Chief Executive Magazine’s readers — will see the results reflected in our future success.”
Washington, No. 36, up 1 place.
Governor Jay Inslee (edited):
CEO perceptions are important, because there’s always something more we can do to improve our business climate. For example, we’re developing a regulatory-process index to track reductions in red tape and quantify savings to businesses … [Our] economy is one of the fastest-growing in the nation … We know that we can’t rely upon legacy or luck for the next Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, or Starbucks to land here. That’s why we’re collaborating on efforts that improve our capacity to commercialize university research, encourage startups, produce a pipeline of highly trained workers with advanced skills, maintain modern public infrastructure and an efficient multi-modal transportation system, generate abundant and affordable clean energy, and do our best to ensure that our communities offer quality of life and opportunity for all residents.
Pennsylvania, No. 42, up 1 place.
Kelli Roberts, Deputy Director of Communications to Governor Tom Corbett (edited):
Governor Corbett came into office in 2011 inheriting a $4.2 billion budget deficit and a business climate much maligned for nearly a decade. In two and a half years, the governor eliminated significant budget deficits without raising taxes on families and implemented significant business tax and climate reforms. The significant reforms enacted by Governor Corbett have Pennsylvania’s economy back on the path to prosperity…Pennsylvania’s significant business tax reforms combined with its proximity to nearly half the U.S. and Canadian population, domestically produced energy, workforce, robust post-secondary educational system, world-class research institutions, three major ports, highway infrastructure, six international airports, and railways [are helping businesses] realize the commonwealth is a great place to do business.
Hawaii, No. 43, down 2 places.
Governor Neil Abercrombie (edited):
Your ranking is nonsense where Hawaii is concerned. At best, your CEOs compare economic apples to oranges. At worst, they reflect standard-issue, right-wing ideological tripe. The question is not Hawaii’s attitude toward business, but business’s attitude toward and about Hawaii … In measuring the progress or lack of it in any state, you must reference its chief economic engines. In Hawaii, hospitality and tourism is dominant and ranks highest … Hawaii is now demonstrating its ability to attract businesses to its creative and innovative sectors. These industries are now significant contributors to the economy [including clean energy, movie and TV production, university research and overall entrepreneurial activity and quality of life] and are growing at a faster pace than the tourism sector.
Michigan, No. 44, up 2 places.
Governor Rick Snyder (edited):
Michigan’s economic transformation is well underway and the success of our reinvention, although not captured in Chief Executive’s “Best States / Worst States” rankings, can be summed up as America’s Comeback State … Our economy is at a 10-year high and Michigan has the sixth-fastest growing economy in the country. Our business tax climate, once No. 49 in the nation, jumped to seventh in 2012. Businesses are now benefiting from a reduction in the state business tax of at least 80 percent and now enjoy a flat 6-percent Corporate Income Tax – one of the most competitive in the Midwest and among the lowest in the nation. Michiganders are creating more and better jobs and right to work gives our workers the freedom to choose whether they wish to join or financially support a union.
Connecticut, No. 45, down 1 place.
Catherine Smith, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, for Governor Danniel Malloy (edited):
While some have opined that Connecticut’s best days are behind it — nothing could be further from the truth. Our agenda for Connecticut – created with a lot of input from our own business community – is dedicated to cultivating a business climate second to none, and designed to last. We are building on our considerable strengths and addressing areas that need improvement. The key to Connecticut’s world-class productivity – and the valuable jobs that come with it – is our talented workforce… Having inherited the worst budget deficit in the nation, Governor Malloy has successfully got the state government’s fiscal house in order, balancing the budget, taking on issues with the state workforce, and reducing long term obligations by billions. The results are beginning to show. We’ve experienced the best two–year record of private sector job creation since the late 1990s … For the first time in a generation, our state government and our business community are working together to cultivate a positive environment; where confidence, that our state is on a sound and strengthening trajectory, can grow.
New Jersey, No. 46, down 1 place.
Colin Reed, Deputy Communications Director for Governor Chris Christie:
The magazine’s assessment is not remotely shared by the New Jersey business community, which has reacted very positively and embraced Governor Christie’s pro-business, pro-growth strategies. Governor Christie’s approach is marked departure from the several prior administrations, which imposed onerous business taxes, red tape and other impediments which hobbled business expansion and jobs growth. [The words of many others,] including New Jersey business leaders and publications, [counter] your publication’s ranking and assessment.
Illinois, No. 48, Unchanged.
Governor Pat Quinn (edited):
Illinois is the commercial heart of North America, and our state-sponsored efforts to attract new business and help existing businesses expand have made us the most dynamic economic engine in the nation… Corporate tax rates in Illinois are lower than many competing states in the region and the country. When you take into account the tax incentives we offer for new business investment, Illinois has one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the United States… Illinois is the top state for business, as more and more domestic and foreign firms are realizing every day.
California, No. 50, unchanged.
Riley Robbins, Deputy Director of Communications for the Office for Economic Development for California, run by Governor Jerry Brown:
In 2013 California was again the state with the most companies on the Fortune 500 list as well as the most on Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative companies. BusinessWeek picked San Francisco as the top city in America and [recently] Inc. Magazine recognized California as No. 1 in the nation with over 700 companies in their “Fastest Growing” list — almost twice as many as the next closest state. There will always be a few outlier lists. But luckily, with stats like creating almost a quarter of all jobs in the nation last month and having one of the top GDPs in the nation last year, California’s numbers speak for themselves.