Maine mired in the middle of recent rankings

Fall is the season for TV ratings and, apparently, for state rankings. Those have been coming hot and fast.

Last week, conservative candidates seized upon the annual Forbes magazine rankings which found Maine to be the worst place in the country to start a business or build a career.

It proved, they said, that years of Democrat rule had ruined the state's business climate.

Others, namely Democrats, complained that the Forbes methodology was suspect and that the magazine had recently rated the Portland area one of the best places to live in the U.S.

That ranking focused only on Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties and measured, among other things, unemployment, income growth and cost of living.

With half of the state's population living in that area, can Maine really be such a bad place?

None of the gubernatorial campaigns have seized upon two other ranking reports which landed this week.

Probably because they don't have the drama of first or last in the U.S. Instead, they show Maine muddled in the middle or bottom third of states.

It's not good enough for Democrats to brag about, and not bad enough for conservatives to rail about.

The first report, the "2011 State Business Tax Climate Index," is done by the Tax Foundation and ranks Maine 31st in the U.S.

South Dakota is first and, curiously, Alaska, which Forbes listed as one of the ten worst places to do business, is next to best, according to the Tax Foundation.

Maine is moving in the right direction, the report shows. We were 43rd in 2006 and have moved up 12 slots since.

Here's how we ranked on various taxes: Corporate, 43rd; individual income tax, 37th; sales tax, 6th; and property tax, 26th.

The results clearly show that the legislative effort last year to reduce Maine's income tax and shift the burden to the sales tax was the right idea.

Unfortunately, voters rejected a plan that would have made our businesses more competitive and helped attract investment capital.

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University released it's "Tenth Annual State Competitiveness Report" this week and ranked Maine 32nd in the U.S.

This is a wide-ranging index that seeks to rate everything from government fiscal policy (we're 41st), to infrastructure (38th), to environmental policy (4th) and business incubation (25th).

Maine has bounced around in this survey, and that raises a bit of doubt about its accuracy. We were 38th overall back in 2005, 23rd last year and 32nd this year.

How these factors can shift so quickly is not explained.

Among our "competitive advantages:" percent of the population with health insurance, 6th best in the U.S.,  and bank deposits per capita, also 6th best.

Among our "competitive disadvantages:" electricity prices, 40th and no surprise; and all technology categories — academic R&D, 40th; patents per inhabitants, 41st; and science and engineering grad students, 50th in the U.S.

Interestingly, the report lists "percent of population born abroad" as a competitive advantage, perhaps reflecting the tendency for new residents to start new businesses.

These two reports show we may not be the absolute worst place to build a career or do business. But they also prove we are not nearly as good as we need to be.

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Mark Elliott's picture

at the end of the day, it's

at the end of the day, it's the word of the people and businesses, that have tried to make it here and found too much working against them, that hold water........and they happen to agree with Forbes.


Not only is Maine not the

Not only is Maine not the place to start a business, it is also not the most favorable State too live in financially. Maine has a lot of good things going for it, but needs to change its financial ways. Dirigo insurance is a good example. While it is well intentioned, it is a goal that a poor and small State like Maine cannot achieve. It is high time to change the philosophy in Augusta starting with the Governor's office and going down the line to most Senators and Representatives. Maine needs to get more conservative in its outlook on life. Maine used to be a good place to call home, but now even one of our Gubernatorial candidate's family recognizes that other States are better. It will be great to have a Governor like Paul Lepage who recognizes the advantage other States have over Maine and who works to elevate the State rather than push it further down the line.

 's picture


You line, "Maine has bounced around in this survey, and that raises a bit of doubt about its accuracy" can be said about any and all of these "studies"
The difficulty with them being reported in local press, is that while you report what some of the criteria are in each survey, you do not report how those criteria are weighted.
For example, the Forbes survey used climate and age of population. These are things which states have no, or very little control over. Well, how heavily are those uncontrolable stats weighted in each survey?
Much like reporting political polls without studying closely the methodology, reporting of these surveys is useless waste of space in your paper.


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