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Martha Eaker

TOP 10 FOR BUSINESS

1. Georgia

2. Texas

3. South Carolina

4. Alabama

5. Tennessee

6. Louisiana

7. Indiana

8. North Carolina

9. Ohio

10. Mississippi

Source: Area Development Online

Georgia football may have slid in the rankings, but the state is the No. 1 place to do business in America, according to an economic development magazine.

Despite a jobless rate that jumped to 8.1 percent in August, Georgia climbed above last year's winner Texas to head the business list of states in 2014, said Area Development Online, which caters to company site selectors and facility planners.

Tennessee was 5th nationally, up from 7th a year ago. Alabama stayed 4th.

Area Development, which surveyed site consultants for its list, cited Georgia's "business-friendly government," noting that employers like recent workers compensation reform passed by the state legislature that helps companies.

It also cited the state's infrastructure, including two deep-water ports and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the nation's busiest.

"It drives us crazy," said Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce chief Martha Eaker about the airport, but adding that "We all go there."

The magazine also said Georgia's Quick Start workforce training effort was ranked the best of its type nationally by site consultants polled by the magazine in each of the last five years.

Eaker said the program will set up shop in a business to train its workers.

She said that a lot of Catoosa's development comes because of it's easy-on, easy-off access to the interstate, noting there are four exits in Catoosa. "If we get the high-speed train, that would more amazing."

Clint Brewer, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development's assistant commissioner of communications and marketing, said it's appropriate the Volunteer State moved into the top five states.

"We're investing in education, infrastructure," he said. "We're setting the stage so to speak."

Brewer said the Tennessee Promise initiative, which offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college to state high school graduates beginning with the class of 2015, is gaining national recognition.

"It's obvious to anybody that the state is making a ... historic push to make sure we have the workforce of the future," he said. "That's something that has really captured the imagination of the business leaders we've talked to."

Brewer said the state's Select Tennessee program, which helps primarily rural counties get industrial sites up to a global standard for potential companies, has helped woo business.

Area Development said Tennessee ranked No. 6 in workforce development in its 2014 survey, but it cited the United Auto Workers effort to organize Volkswagen employees.

"No doubt some site consultants were chagrined at the high-profile tussle earlier this year between politicians and supporters of United Auto Workers representation," the magazine said.

Tennessee unemployment rate also rose in August to 7.4 percent, up from 7.1 percent in July.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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