Georgia and Tennessee remain the top states in America for doing business, according to the annual ranking of the states by Area Development magazine.
The trade publication analyzed 13 major categories of operating costs, regulatory requirements, labor and land access and incentives and business assistance to compile its rankings of states with the best business environments.
Although the coronavirus helped to end the longest post World War II recovery this spring and rapidly shifted the business landscape in 2020, the top states in Area Development's list this year remain the same as last year. Steve Kaelble, editor for Area Development magazine, said the ranking reflects the cost advantages for businesses operating in the South where taxes, land and labor are cheaper and the government is more apt to provide land and assistance for business development.
"The economy is anything but healthy, thanks to the coronavirus," Kaelble said. "And yet there are plenty of individual businesses that continue to expand or relocate to desirable places. The question of which states are the best for doing business is as valid a question as ever. What we learned is that, even amid the earth-shattering change the current pandemic has wrought, there are important things that have not changed. States across the South continue to have their ducks in a row when it comes to making themselves attractive to businesses."
Workers may not fare as well in the South where wages tend to be lower, labor union protections are fewer and tax systems tend to be more regressive. But the environment is more favorable for businesses.
"A place where the bottom line doesn't add up simply isn't going to work," Kaelble said. "Georgia is tops in this department, helping solidify its case as the overall winner for 2020."
Georgia boasts the lowest overall cost of doing business and relocation consultants give Georgia top billing for its business incentives. The Peach State earned its spot with a menu that includes tax credits for job creation, plus credits for R&D investments, using its ports, and expanding operations.
"The pandemic has created massive upheaval in employment, and as the nation recovers, it's likely that many workers will wind up in different places or even entirely different occupations," Kaelble said. "A key to recovery is the ability to get workers trained or retrained quickly and efficiently."
Top states for doing business
3. South Carolina
5. North Carolina
Source: Area Development magazine 2020 ranking
Area Development rates Georgia as the best in this area with its Quick Start program creating customized job-training programs that are free to qualified companies. Linked to the Technical College System of Georgia, the program has been used as a model for a number of other states, Kaelble said.
Tennessee has the best site-ready program to provide locations for new and expanding businesses and boasts the cheapest energy costs overall, according to consultants surveyed by Area Development. Tennessee also ranks fifth in population growth among the sought-after millennial workforce, according to a U.S.News & World Report.
"As we recruit new industry and support the growth of existing Tennessee companies, we remain committed to having a robust inventory of shovel-ready sites as well as programs that assist our communities attract new jobs and private sector investment," said Bob Rolfe, commissioner for Tennessee's Department of Economic and Community Development. "The fact that the same three states have secured the top three spots again this year shows just how enormously competitive the Southeast region is, even during the pandemic."
Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp welcomed the state's top ranking on Wednesday, noting that it is based upon surveys of nearly 50 leading site consultants.
"This seventh consecutive Top State award is a powerful testament to the fundamental strength of Georgia's economy, even in these challenging times," Kemp said. "After all of these years, it's abundantly clear that Georgia remains the epicenter for job growth, economic development, and investment because of strong, conservative leadership."
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said the magazine's ranking "confirms that our work to lower taxes and ease burdensome regulations is attracting businesses and jobs to Georgia."
The recognition comes on the heels of the Port of Savannah being named the top port for U.S. exports from January through May of this year. Governor Kemp also recently announced a strong start to the first month of fiscal year 2021. Georgia's economic development projects attracted roughly $574 million in new investments, and 3,629 new jobs were created in nearly every region of the state in July.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.