We’ve long known that Virginia is a great place to live, work and to do business. The people are friendly and industrious. We have a well-educated workforce and plenty of readily available workers. Amazon recognized that last year when it chose Arlington as home for its second headquarters.
And Wednesday, CNBC confirmed that when the financial cable news network released its annual scorecard on the economic climates of all 50 states. The report, “America’s Top States for Business in 2019,” named Virginia as the best state in the nation for business.
The survey rated each state on 10 broad categories of competitiveness that included workforce, economy, infrastructure, the cost of doing business, quality of life, education, technology and innovation, business friendliness, access to capital and the cost of living.
Virginia topped the list, making it the fourth time the Old Dominion has come in first. It took the title in 2011, 2009 and 2007. The eight-year gap between 2019 and 2011 can be attributed to the economic blow the state took during the Great Recession. In 2013, when the federal government’s self-inflicted disaster called sequestration kicked in, no other state was more adversely affected by the severe defense cuts. In 2014, the commonwealth’s gross domestic product saw zero growth. In 2016, CNBC downgraded Virginia to its lowest-ever ranking, placing it at No. 13.
But that was then. This year is another story altogether. The economy has rebounded and so has our workforce and business climate. Today, Virginia has one of the strongest populations of well-educated science, technology, education and math (STEM) workers. CNBC ranked Virginia No.1 on both its workforce and education, noting that “strong school test scores, small class sizes and a wealth of colleges and universities make Virginia’s education system the best in the nation.”
Also on the positive side for Virginia is our business-friendly atmosphere — CNBC ranked the state No. 3, touting in part the commonwealth’s right-to-work laws. As the survey noted, despite organized labor’s claims that the best workers are unionized, businesses tend to disagree.
Gov. Ralph Northam applauded the commonwealth’s top spot, telling the RTD’s Michael Martz, “It’s one thing to be No. 4 or No. 7, but to be No. 1 in the country is something for us all to be proud of.” As Martz wrote, earning back the top spot in state rankings for business has been a priority for Northam as well as his predecessor, Terry McAuliffe.
Since Northam took office in January 2018, the Old Dominion has added $18.5 billion in new capital investment and created more than 50,000 jobs. Besides landing Amazon and other large business investments, there have been a number of yet-to-be announced data center relocations and expansions.
Northam has been a staunch advocate for investments in state infrastructure projects, including an expanded Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads and planned improvements to Interstates 95, 64 and 81. He has worked diligently to add an additional $15 million in state funding for broadband — something that we believe is as critical to economic growth today as access to a telephone line was 100 years ago.
The two categories that CNBC considered the state’s worst were the cost of doing business here (we came in at No. 35) and its quality of life (No. 17). If those two rankings were improved, Virginia would be unstoppable.
But No.1 is incredible. We are delighted and our hats are off to every governor, university and college president, chancellor and everyone else who worked so diligently to improve higher education in Virginia. Their efforts have borne fruit.
— Robin Beres