Maine gets low ranking

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AUGUSTA (AP) – A new ranking by Forbes magazine puts Maine near the bottom of a list of the best states to do business.

Forbes’ second annual Top States for Business ranking lists Maine as 48th, ahead of only Louisiana and West Virginia. Maine was in the 46th spot last year.

The top states on the list were Virginia, Utah and North Carolina. In northern New England, New Hampshire was 14th and Vermont 32nd.

The rankings are based on six general categories. Maine ranked 16th in quality of life, 27th in labor, 30th in economic climate, 42nd in growth prospects, 43rd in business costs and 46th in regulatory environment.

The president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Dana Connors, said the ranking should be taken seriously.

“You could be defensive and find reasons to disqualify them,” Connors said. “At the end of the day, we can’t afford to ignore them.”

Business owners have different views on whether the rankings reflect the reality of Maine’s business climate, and the economic development commissioner in Gov. John Baldacci’s administration dismisses much of the report.

“While we shouldn’t ignore Forbes, it looks like an evaluation based on perception rather than data,” said Commissioner John Richardson.

Belgrade Canoe & Kayak owner Ralph Ardito believes the ranking is misleading because it doesn’t tell the whole story. He said a small business can do well if it finds a niche.

“The state isn’t a bad place to do business as far as regulatory or state control,” Ardito said.

But Randy Cousineau, owner of Cousineau Wood Products in North Anson, said the 48th spot seems about right. Part of Cousineau’s business is in New Hampshire, so he can closely compare the costs of doing business in both states.

In New Hampshire, taxes and energy costs are lower, and the state provides more economic incentives while imposing fewer regulations, said Cousineau, whose business includes a sawmill and construction company.

“We do much better in New Hampshire,” Cousineau said. Asked why he stays in Maine, he said, “Because I’m from Maine and I still believe in Maine. It’s a great place to live. It’s a hard place to make a living.”

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