Virginia falls to No. 2 in Pollina Top 10 Pro-Business States ranking

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Utah was named America’s most pro-business state, nudging Virginia out of the top spot after five years, in an annual study done by Chicago-based Pollina Corporate Real Estate. 

In its just released Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States for 2012, co-published this year with the American Economic Development Institute, Brent Pollina, the study’s co-author, said Utah could be a model for the rest of the country.

“Utah is a great example of what enlightened and motivated political leadership can accomplish with a solid plan,” Pollina said in a statement. “Utah has certainly been a beehive of industry rising in 2005 from a rank of #23 to #2 in 2009, maintaining that position through 2011 and then pushing Virginia aside. This was no easy feat since Virginia ranked number one in our list of pro-business states for five of the last nine years. Utah is the first state west of the Mississippi to rank #1.”

This was the second time this year that Virginia toppled from its ranking as a No. 1 state for business. Virginia fell this year from No. 1 to No. 3 in CNBC’s annual list of the best states for business, with Texas and Utah coming in at No. 1 and No. 2. In scoring on 10 criteria, the state did not do well on infrastructure & transportation and economy.

In Pollina’s study, the Top 10 Pro-Business States for 2012 are: 1) Utah 2) Virginia 3) Wyoming 4) North Dakota 5) Indiana 6) Nebraska 7) South Dakota 8) Kansas 9) Missouri and 10) Oklahoma.

The study is based on 32 factors controlled by state government, including taxes, human resources, education, right-to-work legislation, energy costs, infrastructure spending, workers compensation laws, economic incentive programs and state economic development efforts.

Despite its fall in the rankings, Virginia still polled high in overall performance and was commended for its consistency. “In the nine years of this study, no other state comes close to Virginia when it comes to being a consistent pro-business state,” the report said. “... Consistency counts a lot in corporate site selection decision making where companies often live with decisions for years or decades.  In today’s business world with all its uncertainties, a state’s reputation as a consistent pro–business winner is very valuable.” 

In an interview with Virginia Business, Pollina said Utah made a better showing this year, because it stepped up efforts in economic development, an area where it used to lag behind Virginia. “They’ve been doing a bit more of a push to get the Utah brand out there, to raise their identity as a state; whereas Va. seems to be keeping the status quo. They don’t seem to be doing anything different than the year before ...  When you’re on top for so long, it tends to breed a little complacency,” Pollina said.

The difference in points between Utah and Virginia was 10.6 points, while the difference in points between Virginia and #3 Wyoming was 24.8 points. “The key to Virginia’s success this year is that not only did they finish #5 under the Stage I, Labor, Taxes, and Other Factors, but they also placed #1 under the Stage II, Incentives and Economic Development Agency Factors. Generally, Virginia had a strong showing in taxes, with exception of Individual Tax Index, and Comprehensive Tax Costs for New Firms where it ranked #39,” the report said.

Virginia maintained its rank of #1 for incentives and economic development agency, with the report citing the Virginia Economic Development Partnership “as one of the finest economic development organizations in the nation.  A close examination of Virginia’s programs reveals a very well-balanced understanding of economic development.”

Ron Pollina, who heads up the real estate company, has said that taxes, regulation, international trade policy and education are four factors that will be instrumental in the continued downward cycle of the U.S., but that top states can provide guideposts for other states on how to counteract these negative pulls on the economy.



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