North Carolina Heads The Best States For Business 2017

    

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North Carolina has built one of the country’s strongest business climates over the past two decades, fueled by low business costs, incentives and a young, educated workforce, many of whom have been trained at the strong universities in the state and Research Triangle Park. Migration rates into the state are among the highest in the U.S. annually. The Tar Heel State is the only one to rank among the top five on FORBES’ Best States for Business for 12 straight years, but it never reached the top rung until now.

An improved employment outlook and the second lowest business costs (labor, energy and taxes) have propelled North Carolina to first in our annual ranking, a spot previously only attained by Utah and Virginia since we launched the list in 2006.

North Carolina ranked second last year, but its status as a business-friendly locale was threatened by the passage of the controversial “Bathroom Bill” in 2016, which required people to use the public facility that corresponds with their biological gender. The cost of the bill was estimated to be more than $500 million in lost economic activity, as Deutsche Bank and PayPal halted expansions in the state and the NBA, NCAA and ACC pulled sporting events.

The N.C. legislature partially repealed the bathroom law in March and businesses immediately announced plans to return. The NBA awarded Charlotte the 2019 All-Star Game and Credit Suisse moved forward with an expansion with 1,200 new jobs paying an average of more than $100,000.

“We opposed that law,” said Credit Suisse Vice Chairman Wilson Ervin. “During the period that HB2 was on the books, we had to put our plans on hold. We did not think that expansion could be done in a way that was consistent with our core values.”

The Movement Advancement Project, which tracks whether states are adequately protecting people from employment discrimination based on sexual and/or gender identity, pegged North Carolina as “hostile” and among the worst states last year, before bumping it to a middling rank in 2017. Protections for LGBT people is one of 41 metrics FORBES uses in its Best States ranking.

Another plus for North Carolina: the second smallest union workforce in the U.S. in terms of percent of total employment (South Carolina is first). The resulting benefit is labor costs that are 10% below the national average and fifth lowest in the country.

To come up with our list, we assess states across six broad categories: business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. North Carolina is the only state to rank among the top 20 states in all six categories (click here for a detailed methodology).