We score all 50 states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness, developed with input from a broad and diverse array of business and policy experts, official government sources, the CNBC Global CFO Council and the states themselves. States receive points based on their rankings in each metric. Then we separate those metrics into 10 broad categories, weighted based on how frequently each is used as a selling point in state economic development marketing materials. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.
Our study is not an opinion survey. We rely on tangible numbers to gauge each state's performance, scoring all 50 states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness, using publicly available data.
Here are our categories and this year's weightings.
Workforce - We rate states based on the education level of their workforce, the numbers of available employees, and the states' demonstrated abilities to retain college-educated workers. We measure workforce productivity based on each state's economic output per job. We look at the relative success of each state's worker training programs in placing their participants in jobs. We also consider union membership and the states' right-to-work laws.
Cost of Doing Business - We look at the competitiveness of each state's tax climate, as well as state-sponsored incentives that can lower the cost of doing business. Utility costs can add up to a huge expense for business, and they vary widely by state. We also consider the cost of wages, as well as rental costs for office and industrial space.
Infrastructure - We measure the vitality of each state's transportation system by the value of goods shipped by air, waterways, roads and rail. We look at the availability of air travel in each state, the quality of the roads and bridges, and the time it takes to commute to work.
Economy - We look at economic growth, job creation, consumer spending, and the health of the residential real estate market. We measure each state's fiscal health by looking at its credit ratings and outlook, as well as its overall budget picture. We also consider the number of major corporations headquartered in each state.
Quality of Life - We score the states on livability, including several factors, such as the crime rate; inclusiveness, such as antidiscrimination protections; the quality of health care; the level of health insurance coverage and the overall health of the population. We evaluate local attractions, parks and recreation, as well as environmental quality.
Technology & Innovation - We evaluate the states on their support for innovation, the number of patents issued to their residents and the record of high-tech business formation. We also consider federal health, science and agricultural research grants to the states.
Education - Higher-education institutions offer companies a source to recruit new talent, as well as a partner in research and development. We consider the number of higher-education institutions in each state, as well as long-term funding trends for higher education. We look at several measures of K–12 education, including test scores, class size and spending. We also look digital and lifelong learning opportunities in each state.
Business Friendliness - But we grade the states on the freedom their legal and regulatory frameworks provide for business.
Cost of Living- The cost of living helps drive the cost of doing business. From housing to food and energy, wages go further when the cost of living is low.
Access to Capital - We look at venture capital investments by state, as well as small-business lending on a relative basis.
Virginia is #13 on the list of America's Top States for Business.