Detailed Survey Data

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Is your state creating jobs and economic growth?

The Enterprising States study takes an in-depth look at the priorities, policies and programs of the 50 states that are vital for job growth and economic prosperity. Each state is evaluated and ranked for its overall job growth and economic performance and its performance across five policy areas:

  • Exports and international trade
  • Technology and entrepreneurship
  • Business climate
  • Talent pipeline
  • Infrastructure

See this year’s top performing states in the summary section.


How does your state measure up?

Share your state’s performance with your friends, elected officials, or local business community.


About the Calculation:

The Enterprising States study examines each state for overall economic performance and performance in five policy areas through a total of 33 measures, each adjusted for a common 1-100 scale to allow for comparison. The states were then ranked according to their job growth and economic health, and their performance within each of the five policy areas using a weighted index for each category.


Helpful links:

View the complete 2014 Enterprising States study
Previous editions of Enterprising States studies
FreeEnterprise.com — Join a dynamic conversation about American Free Enterprise.
About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


The Enterprising States study a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and is conducted by the Praxis Strategy Group.

Which states are best positioned to grow, create jobs, and prosper in the coming five to 10 years?

The fifth annual Enterprising States study measures state performance overall and across five policy areas important for job growth and economic prosperity:

  • Exports and international trade
  • Technology and entrepreneurship
  • Business climate
  • Talent pipeline
  • Infrastructure

This year’s study relates those policies and practices to the need for collaboration between education, workforce development, and economic development to positively combat the nation’s growing skills gap.

Top Performers

Top performer Utah lands in the top 6 in each of the five policy categories and 3rd in overall economic performance. It is the only state to finish in the top 10 on all six lists. Colorado appears on 5 top 10 lists, Texas on 4, and Washington is in the top 15 of five lists. North Dakota is another strong performer, leading by a large margin in economic performance and ranking 1st in talent metrics and 9th in business climate. Florida and Nevada rank well on many policy measures, a sign that the economies of those states may be ripe for a turnaround. Virginia ranks 5th in technology and entrepreneurship, and talent metrics, helping it land just outside the top 10 in economic performance. Minnesota ranks 10th in economic performance, partly due to its second place in talent pipeline. See the map.

Key Findings

Economic Performance

Just as the skills gap problem has no true national definition, economic performance differs across the nation due to the nuanced economic composition of each state. Because of its energy boom and strong small metropolitan economies, North Dakota leads the way. The nation’s growth dynamo, Texas, ranks 2nd, followed by three western states with strong technology economies: Utah, Washington, and Colorado. The central part of the nation is emerging in economic prominence, with 7 of the top 10 states not bordering the Atlantic or Pacific coasts.

The top states for Economic Performance are:

  • North Dakota
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Oregon
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota

Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.

Exports and international trade

International trade is a critical driver of growth for the American economy. Nearly 95% of consumers and three-quarters of the world’s purchasing power is located outside U.S. borders. U.S. businesses are capitalizing on this by increasing their exports. Today, more than 38 million American jobs depend on trade.

Virtually every state in the union is recognizing the power of exporting as an economic driver. States are deploying a variety of tactics and programs to help businesses grow:

  • Provide international market assessments and business practice information about foreign countries
  • Identify and evaluate potential customers, distributors, and other prospective business partners
  • Create export training programs that assist companies in the development of a customized international growth plan
  • Provide access to expertise and resources throughout the international trade process: business finance and capital, legal services, and transportation logistics
  • Coordinate trade missions and trade shows—including some that are governor-led to support in-state companies in their export activities to attract foreign companies and foreign direct investment
  • Establish export-promoting overseas trade offices and representatives

The top states for Exports and International Trade are:

  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • Nevada
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Indiana

Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.

Technology and entrepreneurship

New firm formation and a thriving small business sector are essential features of a dynamic, competitive economy. Technology-based firms, where innovation and entrepreneurship converge throughout all industry sectors, are the focus of many state development policies and programs because of their high potential for job growth, high multiplier effect throughout the economy, and wealth creation. Technology-based firms are also most likely to use knowledge assets of public universities and colleges including intellectual property and skilled talent, thereby generating a high ROI for state investments and the best prospects for a 21st century economy.

Similar to state programs to address the skills gap and workforce development, many states are now decentralizing deployment of entrepreneurship programs. State-level leaders offer guidance, networking, and funding while professionals on the ground decide how to address each region’s unique entrepreneurship challenges. Typical approaches include:

  • Business plan competitions to stimulate new ventures
  • Internship programs to connect companies with talent, including those with STEM skills
  • Program resources focused on emerging growth companies with the most job creation potential
  • “Economic gardening” initiatives to assist in the expansion of established companies
  • “Ecosystem” initiatives and innovation hubs that foster university-business-government networking and collaboration
  • Technology transfer policies that facilitate the use of university R&D by the private sector
  • Investment funding, including angel tax credits, for startups and business expansions

The top states for Technology and Entrepreneurship are:

  • Maryland
  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Massachusetts
  • Texas
  • Alaska
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware

Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.

Business climate

The Great Recession of the late 2000s caused revenues in many states to plummet, leading to a period of aggressive business climate reforms. As many governors’ offices changed hands across the country, incoming state leaders were elected on a platform of strategic cuts and efficiency measures. While skills gap, workforce issues, and economic growth are gaining in importance in most states, business climate reforms remain a critical area of attention. Nearly every state considered or enacted tax reforms in 2013 and the trend of tax reform continues in 2014.

Business climate policy practices comprise four major categories:

Government modernization

  • Consolidation, reorganization, or elimination of agencies, boards, and commissions
  • Regionalization of governance to decentralize decision making and to customize and align service delivery with local circumstances
  • Streamlining and modernizing bureaucratic processes to increase productivity and improve service delivery, often by deploying services online
  • Public-private partnerships and privatization initiatives for the delivery of programs and services

Regulatory reform

  • Moratoria on new rules and regulations
  • Fast-track permitting
  • Eliminating rules, regulations, and statutes that are proven job killers, outdated, or duplicative
  • Impact statements for newly proposed rules and regulations
  • “One-stop” offices for state government

      • Tax reform

      • Reduction of business and personal taxes
      • Eliminating tax exemptions, broadening the tax base, and, in some cases, increasing rates and raising some fees to make up for lost revenues
      • Rolling back tax credits in some states

        Tax credits for targeted purposes

      • Investment in startup and expanding businesses
      • Hiring employees
      • Businesses in targeted industries
      • Regulations tailored for targeted industries, e.g., financial, energy, and vehicles

      The top states for Business Climate are:

      • South Dakota
      • Wyoming
      • Nevada
      • Alaska
      • Texas
      • Utah
      • Colorado
      • Arizona
      • North Dakota
      • Idaho

      Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.

Talent pipeline

Investing in people is perhaps the most effective long-term economic growth strategy. For years, higher education’s economic development role has been dominated by knowledge creation, research and development, and technology transfer. However, a university’s most important contribution to state economic competitiveness in the future might be found in its traditional role of teaching and talent production. States producing the most high-level talent have a leg up in the future economy of decentralized global networks.

Training and education offer the best chance for workers to find well-paying long-term employment, while providing businesses with the talent they need to grow. Navigating program integration and facilitating collaboration between these traditionally separate job-creation institutions are two primary challenges facing state education and workforce development agencies.

  • Improve workforce data deployment so that decisions are tied to solid data to improve effectiveness and to measure return on investment.
  • Implement industry-focused strategies for workforce development that combine education, training, workforce development, and economic development resources.
  • Engage businesses in developing flexible, affordable training programs to equip workers with skills need by local companies.
  • Deploy state-level workforce and training funds to improve flexibility.
  • Create recruiting assistance and training programs for small and mid-sized firms similar to programs for exporters.
  • Decentralize training deployment to allow regional leaders to adapt and prioritize according to the economic needs in each part of the state.
  • Open up state training programs to existing employees instead of just new hires.
  • Provide performance-based funding for universities and colleges to make them more potent agents of workforce preparation and sources of opportunity, growth, and competitive advantage.

    • The top Talent Pipeline states are:

      • North Dakota
      • Minnesota
      • Maryland
      • Utah
      • Virginia
      • Kansas
      • South Dakota
      • Florida
      • Wisconsin
      • Colorado

      Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure development in support of economic growth transcends the traditional, but vital, focus on transportation infrastructure. Various economic research points to the correlation between broadband data access and economic growth. Yet the job of economic development professionals is not just to promote deployment of hard technologies, but also to help users adapt and take advantage of its applications, particularly in technology-oriented businesses, in health care delivery, and for education and personal use. State leaders should not overlook the need for broadband access at the household level in order to maximize its effects for personal development and entrepreneurship.

As the next round of faster fiber-optic technologies are deployed, broadband will continue to be unevenly distributed. Just 35% of local economic developers report good broadband connectivity in their regions.

The future of federal funding for transportation infrastructure is in question. Federal funds are diminishing, potentially bringing on an era of decentralized funding, forcing states to adapt policy and to generate funds for improvements at the state level. The evolving federal-state structure of transportation funding is a critical area of attention for governors because transportation infrastructure is a critical driver of state economic growth and prosperity.

The top states for Infrastructure are:

  • Nevada
  • Florida
  • Utah
  • Oregon
  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Colorado

Visit the map to learn more about these top performers.