CNBC Again Ranks North Carolina as ‘Top State for Business in 2023’

For the second consecutive year, North Carolina has been named by CNBC as “America’s Top State for Business.” 

“At a time when companies are clamoring for workers while trying to navigate a treacherous economy, no state is meeting their needs more effectively than North Carolina,” writes CNBC Special Correspondent Scott Cohn, who created the business news network’s annual competitiveness study of states in 2007.

“Business and the economy in the state have been on a tear since the pandemic, and the state has scarcely looked back,” he adds.

CNBC Top States logo

Cohn recognized North Carolina’s top ranking during a live broadcast on July 11 with Gov. Roy Cooper at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.

“When we invest in our people, we invest in the foundation of our success,” Cooper said. “Thanks to our well-trained, dedicated and diverse workforce, North Carolina has been named the top state for business for the second year in a row and it’s important for us to invest in the education and well-being of our people to continue our amazing success.”

In his story about the rankings, Cohn cites “a trophy case full of economic development wins” for North Carolina in 2023, including a $458 million biomanufacturing facility to be built in Greensboro by cellular therapeutics company ProKidney and a $58 million turkey production facility in Goldsboro to be developed by poultry breeder Select Genetics.

Competitive strengths in life sciences

North Carolina’s competitive strengths in the life sciences typically figure prominently in business accolades such as the CNBC ranking, says Doug Edgeton, president and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

“We have a large and robust industry of over 800 life science companies that directly employ 75,000 people,” Edgeton says, “Ongoing state investments in scientific research, education, workforce training and technology innovation help North Carolina attract, retain and grow these companies, creating high-paying jobs.”

Industries beyond the life sciences also boosted North Carolina in the CNBC rankings. For example, Apple is beginning work on a $1 billion facility in Research Triangle Park for its first East Coast hub, and Bosch is investing $130 million to expand its power tool manufacturing facility in Lincolnton.CNBC logo

“A common thread through all the projects is people,” Cohn writes, citing the state-of-the-state address in March by Cooper, who said, “Our talented, educated workers are the foundation of our economic success.”

North Carolina ranked first in the Workforce category of CNBC’s study, bolstered by its ability to attract and retain talent in diverse industries, says Josh Wright of the labor market analytics firm Lightcast, which provided some of the data for the CNBC study.

“Charlotte is seeing a lot of growth in the financial sector,” Wright tells Cohn. “But it’s not just a one-trick pony. You’ve got the Raleigh-Durham area. You’ve got massive, major, internationally well-known universities driving growth.”

The state also scored well in career education.

“You have one of the most competitive community college systems in America . . . that is attuned to the needs of their industry,” Wright says.

North Carolina finished No. 3 in Economy on the strength of its $560 billion gross domestic product, which grew by 3.2% last year. 

“State finances are solid; its debt rating is top-notch, according to Moody’s. And North Carolina’s housing market appears to be handling the influx of new residents with minimal stress,” Cohn writes.

North Carolina also ranked highly in Technology & Innovation and Access to Capital, both at No. 6.

How the rankings work

CNBC’s rankings assess states on 86 metrics within 10 categories of competitiveness: workforce; infrastructure; economy; life, health and inclusion; cost of doing business; technology and innovation; business friendliness; education; access to capital; and cost of living.

Last year was the first time North Carolina topped the rankings, though it had finished among the top 10 states during 13 of the previous 14 years. To rank first in consecutive years “is a rare feat,” Cohn writes.

Following North Carolina in the top-five rankings were Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Minnesota. The worst-performing state was Alaska, followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Hawaii and West Virginia.

The CNBC accolade comes on the heels of several other honors for North Carolina. 

Earlier this year, the state won Site Selection Magazine’s Prosperity Cup for the third year in a row, recognizing the competitiveness of state-level economic development agencies and their success in landing capital investment projects. North Carolina also won Area Development magazine’s 2023 Platinum Shovel Award, which recognizes states that went above and beyond the gold standard for investment and job creation. It also received Business Facilities magazine’s State of the Year award after a historic year of economic development and job growth.

Since 2017, North Carolina has announced over 103,000 jobs from companies including Apple, Wolfspeed, Toyota, VinFast, and Boom Supersonic.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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