This was published as an op-ed in the July 20, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.
Every year, business network CNBC releases a report called “America’s Top States for Business.” CNBC examines a number of factors (cost of doing business, quality of life, cost of living, etc) and ranks states accordingly. The results of these studies over time (I went back as far as 2006) offer some insight into what NH is doing right, as well as deficiencies that the state continues to ignore.
Texas was rated number one, despite their quality of life being rated as 35th in the nation. They ranked #1 in infrastructure and #2 in technology and innovation, which was enough to offset the rather dismal quality of life. The overall Texas economy was rated 5th in the nation.
NH’s overall rating is 19th in the nation. NH’s quality of life is rated first in the nation. NH ranks 46th in transportation and infrastructure, which is fairly consistent over the years. The rankings for technology and infrastructure put NH in 26th place. More startling was the category of workforce, where NH ranked #44. The workforce rating is based on the education level of the workforce, availability of worker training programs, and union membership. Before those right knees start jerking, it’s important to point out that fewer than 10% of NH workers belong to a labor union. In 2011, NH ranked 40th in workforce, but in 2009 we were in 30th place.
NH ranked 35th in the cost of doing business. That’s a fairly consistent number over the years. CNBC looks at income, property and business taxes, utility costs and the cost of rental space. As we know, NH has some of the highest property taxes and utility costs in the nation. NH ranked 40th in cost of living. That’s been the same since 2006. The numbers are based on housing, food, and energy costs.
There were two surprising categories. We’ve heard a great deal of wailing from the Freebaglicans about how regulations are strangling development in our state. That turns out not to be true. NH ranks SECOND in the nation for being business friendly. Since 2006, we’ve ranked in the single digits in that category. CNBC looks at legal and regulatory frameworks. NH has never ranked lower than in 6th place in this category. The other surprise was the rating of NH’s economy, which came in 34th place. After truly dismal numbers (40th) in 2008, during the big economic collapse, NH rebounded quickly, to #14 in 2009, #12 in 2010, and NH was ranked 10th in the nation in 2011. Falling to 34th place in a year is truly remarkable, especially given that laser like focus on jobs and the economy that was promised us by the GOP majority.
In 2011, the US Chamber of Commerce (not exactly a bunch of raving pinkos) released a report called “Enterprising States; Recovery and Renewal for the 21st Century.” The report found that states investing in infrastructure, as well as education and training for the workforce were the states most successful at bringing in good paying jobs.
This is the exact opposite of what NH has done.
Recent letters from Representatives McCarthy and Tregenza boasted of the many revenue streams and spending cuts the majority made over the last two years. That’s all either of them had to be proud of - cutting state revenue streams. As the US Chamber report points out, “A state, however, can neither cut or tax itself into prosperity.”
NH is trying to cut itself into prosperity. The state funding to our state university systems was cut in half by the Freebaglican majority. The DOT budget was cut so much that we’re no longer lighting up our bridges. Folks will remember that Rep. Gene Chandler had to do some fancy pageant walking after the budget he shilled for resulted in cutbacks to DOT spending on snow plowing. It is now estimated that NH’s 10 year transportation plan will take 30 years to complete, based on current spending.
The US Chamber report cited Vermont and Maine as being the top two states currently investing in telecommunications infrastructure. NH is the 19th century filling in that northern New England sandwich of progress.
NH already ranks in last place for state spending on our state university system. We can continue to strive to be last in infrastructure, too. Of course, it’s entirely possible that we’ll choose to elect a legislature that isn’t stuck in flat earth mode next time around.
From the US Chamber report: “The evidence regarding job creation among the states shows that fiscal probity is an essential ingredient, but states can deal with the fundamental problems they face only by spurring growth and upward mobility.”
Be sure to ask incumbents how they expect to move NH into the future by doing the exact opposite of what is working for other states. Be sure to ask all candidates how they intend to help bring NH into the 21st century.
“In our seeking for economic and political progress, we all go
up - or else we all go down.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt