The Hoosier State is slipping — behind Illinois — in a widely watched list of the top U.S. states for business.
The CNBC television network released its 14th “America’s Top States for Business” rankings Tuesday, evaluating all 50 states on 85 different measures across 10 different categories deemed essential for business competitiveness.
Overall, Indiana scored 19th of 50 for 2021, down eight slots from the state’s 11th-place CNBC ranking in 2019.
Illinois was 15th this year, up from 30th two years ago.
According to the analysis, Indiana was strongest in infrastructure (3rd of 50), cost of doing business (9th), cost of living (10th) and business friendliness (12th).
The Hoosier State fell approximately in the middle on CNBC’s measures of economy (21st), access to capital (24th) and technology and innovation (25th).
In fact, technology and innovation was the only category where Indiana improved in 2021 compared to 2019, thanks in part to a burgeoning technology sector centered on Indianapolis and new state support for data center investments, including the Digital Crossroad facility in Hammond.
At the same time, CNBC concluded Indiana lags well behind other states when it comes to education (36th), quality of life (41st) and workforce quality (43rd).
CNBC said it changed its quality of life measure this year to “life, health and inclusion” to better account for companies demanding states offer a welcoming and inclusive environment for their employees.
As a result, Indiana’s limited anti-discrimination protections, stringent voting rules, and lackluster COVID-19 vaccination rate combined to place Indiana in the bottom fifth of states on the new quality of life measure.
Indiana’s comparative lack of college graduates and reduced state support for high education played a major role in determining Indiana’s low rankings in the education and workforce quality categories, according to CNBC.
Erin Sweitzer, communications director for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state’s commerce agency, said the IEDC “doesn’t place significant focus on any one individual ranking” because “we know these various rankings each have their own methodologies that can change from year to year.”
“We continue to be focused on supporting our businesses and adapting to their developing wants and needs,” Sweitzer said.
Illinois, meanwhile, improved in five of the 10 CNBC categories, including infrastructure (1st), access to capital (3rd), education (10th), cost of living (21st) and cost of doing business (29th).
It remained among the worst states on CNBC’s measures of economy (48th) and business friendliness (48th).
Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he wasn’t surprised to see Illinois move up in the overall CNBC rankings.
“My administration is making Illinois a better place to do business. It’s not just a lofty goal. We’re (making) real, measurable progress — from investing (in) infrastructure and education, to lowering the cost of doing business,” Pritzker said. “We’re writing a new chapter for Illinois.”
According to CNBC, Virginia is America’s top state for business in 2021, just as it was in the 2019 CNBC rankings, thanks to Virginia’s superior rankings in education and workforce.
“This year’s ‘Top States’ study was always going to be a verdict on which states were best poised to succeed coming out of the pandemic, and Virginia is a clear winner on that score,” CNBC Special Correspondent Scott Cohn said.
“Not only does it have the talent that companies are craving, it has also taken major steps in the area of inclusiveness, which is especially important this year.”
The other states in the top five were North Carolina, Utah, Texas and Tennessee.
Minnesota was the highest-ranking Midwest state at 7th, followed by Ohio (10th), Michigan (11th), Illinois (15th), Indiana (19th), Iowa (20th) and Wisconsin (21st).
The lowest ranked states (50th-46th) were Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, West Virginia and Rhode Island.