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2011 Top States For Doing Business: A Closer Look at the Top Overall States

An examination of the top-10 states' site selection attributes offers insight into the 2011 rankings. Here, we examine these individual states and find out what their leaders have to say about the survey results and the reasons their states were singled out by the consultants.

Fall 2011
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6. Louisiana
More companies around the nation are choosing to expand or relocate their businesses to Louisiana, and the survey of consultants shows why - it was their #6 pick overall.

The state ranked first (tied) for its incentive programs, third for its overall cost of doing business, third (tied) for leading in the economic recovery, and fifth (tied) for its overall labor climate. Companies such as Silicon Valley-based Globalstar, Inc. and Albemarle Corp. (Fortune 500) have moved their corporate headquarters and major divisions to Louisiana, citing the state's pro-business climate, competitive incentives, and customized work force training solutions.

Louisiana, long home to many traditional industries such as shipbuilding and petrochemicals, is now turning an eye to newer growth industries such as technology and research. Additionally, and perhaps surprisingly, the state is staking claims in advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, clean-tech, digital media software, energy, entertainment, specialty healthcare, and water management. Fortune 500 telecom giant CenturyLink, emergency medicine and IT specialist Schumacher Group, and global interactive game-maker Electronic Arts have all expanded current facilities in Louisiana.

"Our work to foster the best business environment so more companies invest in Louisiana and create jobs for our people is paying off," said Governor Bobby Jindal. Louisiana's economic development secretary, Stephen Moret, echoed the sentiment: "While we are very pleased with our progress, we are going to continue working hard to reposition Louisiana as one of the very best states in the U.S. in which to start, grow, or relocate a business."

7. North Carolina
As the country's 10th largest state, North Carolina ranked seventh among the top states for doing business. It scored high for its certified sites and shovel-ready programs (tied for 1st) and rail and highway accessibility (tied for 4th); its overall labor climate (tied for 3rd); business friendliness (tied for 4th), and leading in the economic recovery (5th). These key indicators are strong evidence that the state is slowly powering its way out of the recession.

A leading reason for this momentum is North Carolina's transition from a traditional labor-intensive based economy (textiles and furniture) to one that is knowledge- and service-based (alternative energy and high-tech manufacturing). As an example, Enviva LP, a leading manufacturer of processed biomass fuel in the United States and Europe, is building a new $60 million wood pellet manufacturing facility in the northeastern part of the state.

"North Carolina is quickly becoming a hub for alternative energy solutions," said Governor Bev Perdue. "Our terrific business climate, skilled work force, and diverse natural resources make North Carolina an excellent location for the growing biomass industry and other alternative energy producers."

P&G Manufacturing also is building a $4 million manufacturing facility to enhance capacity in producing air filtration equipment in Washington, North Carolina. Companies around the state have recognized North Carolina's outstanding infrastructure and global access, friendliness to business, and focus on providing an adequate and skilled work force.

8. Tennessee
According to the results of the survey, Tennessee ranked first in the overall infrastructure and global access category; specifically it was tied for first place for its certified sites and shovel-ready programs, second in competitive utility rates, and tied for fourth in rail and highway accessibility. Tennessee is also among the states leading in the economic recovery (tied for 4th). This is a state with a laser-like focus on recovering from the recession.

Tennessee is well known for its almost $3 billion agriculture industry, providing commodities such as soybeans, cattle, corn, cotton, dairy products, wheat, apples, squash, and honey for U.S. and international markets. The continuation of high crop prices in 2010 should yield higher revenues for farmers throughout this year. In addition, Tennessee's agribusiness industry, coupled with its continued investment in biofuel research, could put Tennessee at the front of the line in the production of renewable energy. The state's emphasis on professional and business services, mining and construction, health, and education services is also expected to drive strong rates of job and revenue growth.

Recently, Kruger, a manufacturer of paper and tissue products, committed to investing $136 million to expand an existing mill in Memphis. "Established Tennessee companies such as Kruger provide a solid foundation on which our state's economy will continue to grow," said Tennessee's Governor Bill Haslam.

Also recently announced, Quaprotek, a leading supplier to the automotive industry, will locate its manufacturing facility in Ripley, Tennessee, for the production of metal parts for vehicles, engines, and power trains. "Quaprotek's decision tells us that Governor Haslam's Jobs4TN strategy is striking the right balance between serving Tennessee's existing business and aggressively recruiting new companies to our state," said Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty.

9. Mississippi
Mississippi was ranked among the top five spots for its corporate tax environment and incentive programs, overall cost of doing business, and its business friendliness. The state also was #1 for labor costs and placed third (tied) for its overall labor climate.

A big reason is the state's commitment to a skilled, mostly non-unionized, and plentiful work force. Mississippi provides quality work force training programs tailored to businesses, many developed with the help of the state's colleges and universities. In fact, Mississippi has created "MissiON," the $16 million Mississippi research network of expanded broadband technology systems supported by AT&T and designed to serve the state's research universities and facilities.

"This network will transform our universities' research capabilities and academic competitiveness on a global scale," said Governor Haley Barbour. "Researchers will be able to share massive amounts of complex data quickly, enhancing their work in a variety of areas from medicine to manufacturing."

Mississippi also is placing added focus on several select industries including plastics (more than 350 companies), automotive (Toyota is building its eighth North American automotive assembly plant in Blue Springs), aerospace (Stark Aerospace, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), Israel's largest industrial exporter, has two facilities in Mississippi), and defense (approximately 50 defense-related manufacturers are located in Mississippi).

Mississippi also provides an abundance of land in industrial and technology parks and a one-stop permitting process for all environmental permits and regulations. Four interstate highways and 17 rail systems with more than 2,800 miles of track serve the state, and Mississippi's 15 ports include two deepwater ports on the Gulf Coast that provide global access.

10. California
While battered by the recession, when it comes to international trade and access to global markets, make no mistake, California is still a powerhouse and the leader of the pack. Placing first for access to global markets in our survey, California serves as a gateway to the Pacific Rim and, indeed, the world. Its state ports transition more than 40 percent of container cargo traveling to the United States, Canada, and Mexico; its two top airports, Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Francisco International, rank second and fourth in the country for international air cargo volume.

California has capitalized on its access to global markets by offering its so-called "4G Platform for Global Business," which underscores its global innovation network, global competitive advantage, role as the gateway to the Pacific Rim, and its great lifestyle and entertainment advantages.

California has also launched a new Innovation Hub (iHub) initiative, which will improve the state's national and global competitiveness by stimulating partnerships, economic development, and job creation around research clusters through state-designated iHubs. These iHubs will leverage research parks, technology incubators, universities, and federal laboratories in order to provide an innovation platform for startup companies, economic development organizations, business groups, and venture capitalists.

"As the countries of Asia and south of our border continue to thrive and expand their trade, our state will play a leading role, as it always has, and reap unimagined benefits," said Governor Jerry Brown in his 2011 State of the State Address.

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