by Rob Roper
Politicians talk quite a bit about prosperity, job creation, expanding opportunity, improving quality of life, etc. and so on. So, how are we doing?
Much of these things are quite subjective in nature, and one person’s paradise could easily be another person’s living hell. However, Forbes magazine takes a stab at it every year, and this year, Vermont ranks 45th out of the 50 states as a good place to do business. This represents a halt in progress over the past couple of years. In 2009 Vermont ranked 47th overall, and last year we were 45th as well. However, in 2006, 2007 and 2008 we ranked 30th, 32nd and 36th respectively, so our overall slide has been precipitous.
The categories that make up the general ranking include Business Costs Rank (VT- 43), Labor Supply (VT-16), Regulatory Environment (VT- 45), Economic Climate (VT-39), Growth Prospects: (VT-45) and Quality of Life (VT-15).
Pat McDonald, chair of the Vermont Republican Party commented on the Forbes ranking. “Once again Forbes has ranked Vermont as one of the worst states to do business and to have a career. While many will argue with the numbers and say that they are not reflective of how Vermont truly is, the fact remains that Forbes is a well-respected source of information and this is the reality of what businesses and career-minded individuals are reading about Vermont. We need to work to change that image and to focus on ensuring growth, opportunity and prosperity for all Vermonters and our business community.”
The particularly cautionary numbers within the numbers are in Growth Prospects and Quality of Life. The past is the past, and business people (at least the successful ones) are always looking to the future. Vermont’s future, according to Forbes at 45, is comparatively bleak.
And, while our quality of life ranking of 15 out of 50 is pretty good, the trend shows us dropping in that category over time. As this tends to be a major selling point for doing business here, trumping, some would argue, the more negative aspects of our business climate, we need to do better in this category. There are lots of nice paces to live, and so long as places like Colorado and New Hampshire register better qualities of life and better business climates than Vermont, we have to worry about the competition.
As the legislature comes back to work in January, some may certainly question these numbers and might even have some solid ground from which to do so (New Jersey, Nebraska and Ohio offer better qualities of life that Vermont? Not). However, in life as in politics, sometimes perception is more important that reality. Vermont needs to do something to change the perception that it is a bad place to do business.
The minority leader in the House, Don Turner (R Milton) summed up the situation. “The Governor and legislative super-majority continue to ignore the facts and statistics about Vermont’s business climate as they pass laws each session that make it more and more difficult to do business in this State. Businesses can’t survive. We have to change the direction soon.”