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So Where Is Wyoming?

Date: July 29, 2014

What Just Happened to Our No. 1 Rating?

The champagne toast of the nation in one survey, a Dixie cup of Kool-Aid in another. What just happened to Wyoming?

State officials beamed with pride when the Tax Foundation’s 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index listed us best in America, but cable TV network CNBC, the latest pulse-taker of states, isn’t so impressed. In its recently released America’s Top States for Business, Wyoming comes in 21st overall, ranking an embarrassing 46th in CNBC’s technology and innovation category, but a praiseworthy 8th in business friendliness.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University had the dimmest view of Wyoming, after raking us over 200 policy variables to find us 36th overall. In the Center’s biennial Freedom in the 50 States report, only Wyoming’s regulatory policies shined, 11th best in the nation, while the personal (21st) and economic (39th) categories proved a drag. 

The American Legislative Exchange Council, however, was just smitten with Wyoming, which it ranked 10th best in its latest Rich States, Poor States report. So impressed, it even gave Gov. Matt Mead a chance to write a foreword in the report.

Proceed With Caution

“Do not place too much stock in any of these state rankings,” warns economist William J. Dennis, NFIB’s senior research fellow. “They are only a set of arbitrary indicators, and some are very bad. They also fail to take into account the varying needs from business to business. For instance, if I manufacture aluminum, the cost of electricity is everything to me. If that cost is too high, even living in a low-tax state is of minimal help to me. Another example: How do you really measure a regulatory climate, by the number of pages in the state code? Considerations like these are the reason NFIB has never come up with a state-ranking index of its own. There are just too many components to accurately measure a state.”

Added Tony Gagliardi, NFIB’s Wyoming state director: “Want to know where Wyoming really ranks? Ask NFIB members. They’re here on Main Street dealing with the laws and policies that govern our state every day on the most retail level. I single out NFIB members from other small-business owners, because they have a history of a greater commercial, civic and governmental involvement and knowledge and bring a much more informed opinion to public discourse.”

More Rankings Ahead

Later this year, Canada’s Fraser Institute will issue its annual Economic Freedom of  North America report, ranking not only all 50 states, but 10 Canadian provinces as well. The last issue put Wyoming in 17th place. A new Best States For Business and Careers by Forbes magazine will also be coming out. The last one had Wyoming 23rd. 

Unimpressed by the middling ratings? But wait! A refreshed Small Business Policy Index will also be coming out later in the year from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. Last year’s index put Wyoming 4th best in the nation. On and on it could go, where it will stop nobody knows.

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Do not place too much stock in any of these state rankings. They are only a set of arbitrary indicators, and some are very bad.

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