The Stand

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Washington great for business

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By DAVID GROVES
The Stand

WASHINGTON D.C. (July 10, 2013) — Another national business-climate ranking was published this week and once again Washington State ranks among the very best states. And this time, the positive assessment comes from the parent organization of a statewide business lobbying group that continually complains about Washington’s business climate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the parent organization of the Association of Washington Business (AWB), just released its 4th annual Enterprising States report and Washington was listed among its “Strong Performers.” The report ranks each state’s overall economic performance and its performance in five policy areas — exports, innovation & entrepreneurship, business climate, talent pipeline, and infrastructure — using 33 different measures.

Washington was the most consistently strong state in the nation, singled out in the report for ranking “no worse than 17th on any list.” The state was ranked as 11th best in Overall Business Climate.

The AWB sees things differently. It decries Washington State’s business tax “burden,” its high minimum wage, its costs for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, you name it. Last year, the candidate they backed for Governor, Republican Rob McKenna, shared the AWB’s negative assessment, telling voters that “we must no longer allow Washington to be one of the ten most expensive states in which to operate a business.”

Apparently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce disagrees:

Washington ranks 6th in overall economic performance, driven by top 10 short- and long-term job growth rankings and the 9th-highest adjusted family income. Incoming Governor Jay Inslee has made improving the state’s business climate — ranked 11th in this year’s report — one of the central items on his policy agenda. As part of this focus, the new administration is in the process of establishing an Economic Competitiveness and Development Office. The office will bring together all trade and economic development efforts under one cabinet-level director, streamlining the state’s economic growth activities.

And it’s not just the Chamber. Most other rankings find Washington is a great state for business. Here are a few from national organizations/publications that, like AWB, advocate lower business taxes and fewer regulations, but unlike AWB, have no specific in-state agenda dictating their assessment of the state:

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s 2012 Business Tax Index says Washington is 5th best in terms of its business tax system. This Virginia-based group advocates for lower business taxes across the nation and ranks states “according to the costs of their tax systems for entrepreneurship and small business.”

Tax Foundation’s 2013 Business Tax Climate Index finds Washington is 6th best in the nation for low business taxes. This conservative foundation says its report “enables business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states’ tax systems compare.”

Forbes’ Best States for Business says Washington is 11th best in the nation. States in this list get bonus points for actively discouraging unionization; all but one of Forbes’ top 10 states are so-called “right-to-work” states. So for a heavily unionized state like Washington to rank 11th best is high praise indeed! Which brings us to…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says Washington ranks 4th best in unionization rate, with the state’s 513,000 union members accounting for 18.5% of the overall workforce.

On that last one, some conservatives might argue that having high unionization isn’t “best.” But a strong case can be made that union members are better trained and earn higher wages, which makes their companies more efficient and injects more money into that state’s economy. That’s good for business.


ALSO at The Stand — Take “Benchmarks’ of state’s CEOs with a grain of salt

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