Virginia slips in CNBC rankings

Posted: July 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — While Virginia continues to slip from the very top of the pack in CNBC’s rankings of the best states for business, it remains the frontrunner on the East Coast.

The commonwealth tied with Utah for the fifth spot on CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business 2013.

South Dakota was No. 1, followed by Texas, North Dakota and Nebraska.

In the 2012 rankings, Virginia was No. 3. It was the top state in 2011, 2009 and 2007.

According to cnbc.com, various factors went into the rankings, including the cost of doing business, the economy, infrastructure, education, business friendliness and access to capital.

Patrick Barker, executive director of the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission, took the drop in stride.

“You always want to be No. 1,” he said. “Everyone strives for that. But, I think at the end of the day, you’re still in the top tier of states.

“The moving downward I would feel is not [an] indication that Virginia itself has moved backwards as much as it’s an illustration of how ultra-competitive economic development is. Everyone is always trying to one-up each other.”

And, sometimes those at the top become complacent, Barker noted.

“You’ve got to consistently keep your tools sharp,” he said. “There’s a lot of places businesses can choose to locate.”

Suzanne Clark, communications manager for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, was also enthusiastic about the Consumer News and Business Channel’s ranking.

“Overall, we’re still proud that Virginia is still in the top five states for business,” she said. “Certainly, everybody wants to be first every year, but to be consecutively in the [top five] year to year is a great achievement.”

Clark said CNBC tweaked the rankings system this year.

“In the cost of doing business category ... the category carried more weight than it ever has before — and they look at rent for office space, industrial space and commercial space for that category — so we’re at a little bit of a disadvantage when they look at that because of Northern Virginia and obviously the prices are a little higher there,” she said.

Virginia improved from 33 last year to 21 in the infrastructure category, which includes transportation, Clark said.

“Last year’s ranking actually is something that the governor cited to push through his $6 billion transportation legislation package this year,” she said. “We anticipate upward movement in the coming year in that category.”

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline that runs through the Dakotas and Nebraska, with another project going into Texas, is a likely factor in those states’ high rankings, according to Clark.

“That’s my strong feeling, that it would be because of the [oil] pipeline,” she said.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com