By: Nicholas Sohr
Maryland slipped two spots in CNBC’s rankings of the best states to do business this year, finishing No. 29 out of 50 after placing 27th in both 2009 and 2010.
What may be worse for the Old Line State is that Virginia – Maryland’s most frequent foil when it comes to all things economic development and business friendliness – gained one place in the rankings and recaptured the top spot.
Maryland didn’t finish in the top five in any category the business news network used to determine the overall rankings. The state had its worst showing in cost of living, its 44th place ranking ahead of only New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Alaska and Hawaii.
Perhaps more surprising for Maryland, CNBC ranked the state 38th for work force and 30th for quality of life, two factors that state leaders talk up as some of the state’s best selling points. The workforce ranking was based on education (where Maryland should have done well), worker availability (where Maryland may have hurt been by its relatively low unemployment rate) and union membership. CNBC counts union membership against states and Maryland’s stance has been very pro-union. It is the southernmost of the non-right to work states, a factor some economists believe hurts Maryland in its competition with Virginia and North Carolina.
Quality of life rankings were determined by local attractions, crime rate, health care and air and water quality. Notice there’s no mention of schools in there, one of Maryland’s strong suits. Just try and talk to a Democratic politician for two minutes without him or her mentioning the top-ranked public school system. Just try it. I dare you.
Maryland also got crushed in the rankings on infrastructure and transportation, finishing 39th. The Baltimore and Washington regions are some of the most congested in the country, so that’s not a surprise. But the rankings also looked at the value of goods shipped through the state, road quality and the availability of air travel. Hampton Roads does more business than the Port of Baltimore and while BWI is bigger than Reagan and Dulles, the two northern Virginia airports are larger when combined and Dulles offers far more international travel.
Where was the good news for Maryland? Probably just where you expected it would be. The state’s highest grade (10th place) was in technology and innovation. This included state support for innovation, patents issued to state residents, broadband access, and health and science grants made in the state. Virginia finished 11th in this category, the only in which it scored lower than Maryland.
Maryland finished 11th in education, which examined K-12 and colleges and universities.
Maryland has the 12th-best economy of all the states according the CNBC rankings that not only looked at the diversity in the state, but the fiscal health of state governments and the number of large corporations headquartered there. And Maryland was 12th-best in terms of access to capital for businesses.
And as much as this state is derided for having a terrible business climate, Maryland finished 18th and tied with pro-business Texas in that category, according to CNBC. But all things are relative, of course. Texas is blessed with neighbors like Oklahoma (24th in business friendliness) and Louisiana (26th). Maryland is stuck between Virginia (2) and Delaware (1). Of course, there’s always Pennsylvania (33) and West Virginia (49). So we’ve got that going for us.