PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Competitiveness Among States Probed in Business Survey

By David M. Kinchen

Reading the story in today's (July12, 2013) Huntington News Network about West Virginia's low ranking on states friendly or unfriendly to business reminded me that I've lived in many of the states unfriendly to business, including 16 years in West Virginia and 16 years in California before that.

I grew up in Illinois, another state that's ranked low on the friendliness/competitiveness totem pole, according to the list (link: that I retrieved in a Google search. Illinois didn't fare very well in the rankings at No.37.

My birth state, Michigan, ranked 29th. West Virginia was 48th, only two notches from the very bottom (thank God for Rhode Island and Hawaii!) and California was, to nobody's surprise, just a notch above West Virginia at 47. I lived for a few years in Indiana, which ranked a not so bad 18. I have a fond recollection of Indiana, where I met my wife, Liz, in 1964, and worked on two daily newspapers, in Hammond and Bloomington. We left Indiana in the fall of 1967 for Wisconsin, ranked 22nd on the list. 

South Dakota topped the list, followed by No. 2, Texas, where I've just completed five years of residence. The high ranking of the Lone Star State was no surprise to me. The other Dakota, North Dakota, was No. 3.

From the story, here's the methodology:

"We scored all 50 states on 51 measures of competitiveness developed with input from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness. States received points based on their rankings in each metric. Then, we separated those metrics into ten broad categories, weighting the categories based on how frequently they are cited in state economic development marketing materials. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves."

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I've reviewed a number of books about the Texas phenomenon, which many on the left say is flawed. Actions speak louder than words, as Erica Grieder points out in a book I recently reviewed (Link: "Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas" (PublicAffairs). I would rate author Grieder highly as a journalist, since she's a senior editor at Texas Monthly, a generally liberal publication published in our liberal-leaning state capital of Austin, AKA The People's Republic of Austin. Before joining the staff of Texas Monthly, Grieder worked for The Economist, one of the most respected newspapers in the world.

Here's an excerpt from my review of Grieder's book, which I recommend to anyone who still doubts the power of Texas -- and smaller states like the Dakotas:

Erica Grieder's "Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas" (PublicAffairs, 288 pages, notes, index, $26.99) is the latest entry in a series of books and articles countering the largely East Coast liberal party line that that there is no "Texas Miracle" --  that the jobs created in the Lone Star State have been minimum wage no-future positions, that the state is governed by knuckle-dragging Evangelicals, that Texas represents a "What's The Matter With Kansas" situation of people voting against their own interests, etc., etc.

 Grieder, in a style and format that reminds me of the late, great John Gunther's "Inside" series ("Inside Europe," "Inside U.S.A.", etc)  writes that while it's true that evangelicals play a role in Texas (although not as big a one as outsiders claim), most Texans believe in separation of church and state (dating from the days before the creation of the Texas Republic in 1836 when Mexico required all Texans to be Roman Catholics) and the United States has a great deal to learn from Texas. She cites experts who say that today's Texas may represent what  the U.S. will  be 20 years from now.

Back in January (link: I reviewed Chuck DeVore's "The Texas Model" which had as its goal much the same debunking as Grieder's. DeVore, a transplanted California  state legislator  who works for the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation -- a conservative think-tank -- has just published an article that "myth busts" comparisons between California and Texas that he considers flawed or outright erroneous (Link: 

Grieder and DeVore have a lot of work to do to counteract the mythological Texas created by writers for influential publications like The New York Times. Writers point to Texas' death row, the busiest in the country (Virginia is the runner-up), neglecting to mention that California still has the death penalty in contrast to, say, benighted West Virginia, which abolished it in the 1960s.

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Business and commerce in general know that locating in a state where roadblocks are thrown up at every turn makes no sense. That's why the Dakotas and Texas are faring so well. It's not rocket science, as the commercials say. It's just common sense.

You can read the CNBC story, by clicking,

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