Rhode Island Ranks Dead Last in U.S. for Business
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Rhode Island is “pretty much under water” when it comes to business competitiveness, ranking dead last in the country, according to a report released this week by CNBC.
It was the second straight year the Ocean State finished 50th in the report, which ranks states based on ten categories, including cost of doing business, workforce, quality of life, infrastructure & transportation, economy, education, technology & innovation, business friendliness, access to capital and cost of living.
At 11 percent, Rhode Island still has the second highest unemployment rate in the country. The CNBC report also suggests the state’s struggling municipalities are partially to blame for its low ranking.
But while the negative attention is a blow to the state’s reputation, the ranking comes as no surprise to the state’s leading economic experts.
“Today Rhode Island’s economic development and opportunity programs are unclear, unsure and lack a strategic direction,” Gary Sasse wrote in a piece for GoLocalProv this week. “A former executive director of the Economic Development Corporation recently noted that since 1969 the state has been involved in five studies focusing on education, infrastructure and the business climate. Yet today when compared to other states, Rhode Island is less competitive.”
Sasse, who served as executive director for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council for three decades, believes political leaders are partially to blame for the state’s woes.
“Rhode Island is in a relative state of decline because of the way resources are allocated and the poor performance of its political institutions,” he wrote. “The primary remedy is strong and accountable leadership. Such public leadership is an essential ingredient to help organize people to work together for the common good. Meeting Rhode Island’s challenges will require leaders who possess the skills, tools and courage to act as effective leaders.”
There were a few bright spots in the CNBC report. Rhode Island ranked 10th in the country for access to capital and 23rd for both education and quality of life. Still, the state pales in comparison to most the country, let alone the rest of England.
Connecticut was the only other New England state to finish in the bottom ten of the rankings. New Hampshire was at best at No. 19 and Massachusetts ranked No. 28 overall. Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina and North Dakota comprised the top five while Hawaii, West Virginia, Alaska and Mississippi joined Rhode Island in the bottom five.
The concern is that thing could still get worse for the Ocean State. In May, a report released by Bryant University’s Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council warned that the state could be on the verge of a double-dip recession.
The report found that slow rates in economic growth have had the state’s economy stuck in neutral for over a year.
Dr. Ed Mazze, Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island, warned that such a hit would be devastating to Rhode Island.
“A double-dip recession for Rhode Island will result in a further drag on the state's economy,” he said in May. “You can expect unemployment in the range of 12 to 13 percent, more underemployment and people giving up looking for a job.”
Dan McGowan can be reached at email@example.com.