GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina came close to being No. 1 in college basketball last April, but today the state reached No. 1 in another key arena: for business.

After finishing second a year ago, North Carolina ranked No. 1 in America’s Top States for Business as evaluated by CNBC based on a series of 88 metrics about economic competitiveness. (And, no, the UNC Tar Heels’ loss to Kansas in the final of the NCAA Tournament wasn’t one of them.)

CNBC said the state is “turbocharged by a long track record of innovation” and noted how political leaders put aside their differences to make business expansion happen and said that’s what pushed the state to the top. Advancing the business environment has always been an espoused objective of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, and CNBC explored its relationship with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (Julia Wall/The News & Observer via AP)

“North Carolina is the best place in America to do business and the main reason is our people,” Cooper said in a release. “This is a great honor, and we’re going to continue to work with our state legislature, businesses, education leaders and employees to build the talented workforce and resilient infrastructure needed to support the high-paying jobs of the next generation.” 

CNBC’s evaluation is based on a scoring system that weighs 88 metrics across 10 “categories of competitiveness.” Its methodology gives states a maximum of 2,500 points, and states are ranked on that points basis.

North Carolina was followed in the survey by Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota and Georgia.

Louisiana, Alaska and Mississippi rank as the bottom three states.

The top 10 states, as ranked by CNBC (SCREENSHOT)

Category rankings

North Carolina ranked No. 1 nationally for its economy (Tennessee was second), and it ranked fifth for Technology and Innovation (behind only California). The Workforce also ranked 12th (Colorado was No. 1).

Those latter two categories, among seven top-line topics, which showed North Carolina to be no lower than 28th in any, are indicative of the results of the business climate, the report said.

CNBC alluded to the recruiting of the Vinfast auto manufacturer in Chatham County and the expansion of Apple in the Research Triangle Park. But there also are the Toyota EV battery plant coming to the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, Boom Supersonic coming to Greensboro and a chip manufacturer also announced the Chatham County.

Those will offer about 25,000 new jobs that will pay significantly higher than North Carolina’s average wage. They also represent billions of dollars of investment by those companies.

Cooper in his release claims that since 2017 he has announced 95,000 new jobs in North Carolina. And commerce officials tout grants programs that have helped make those expansions happen.

Pluses and minuses

CNBC touted the Research Triangle Park for the state’s rank in technology, and it noted that the nation’s second-largest and sixth-largest banks – Bank of America and Truist – are headquartered in Charlotte.

The state’s only real negative reflects in a No. 28 ranking for Life, Health and Inclusion, which alludes to something that occurred before Cooper took office – former Gov. Pat McCrory’s ill-fated “bathroom bill,” which drove off companies and events. That law expired in 2020. MSNBC says North Carolina is one of five states that doesn’t have a law protecting against discrimination against some portions of the population who are not disabled.
There also are lagging investments in health spending and hospital resources, two areas that Berger has been pushing with legislation to expand access to Medicaid and other health care paths.

Boom President Kathy Savitt presents Gov. Roy Cooper with a model of the Overture supersonic jet to be built in Greensboro. (Photo by Steven Doyle)

“Last year, we announced more than 24,000 new jobs and investments exceeding $10.1 billion from future-focused companies in fields like biotechnology, computers and electric vehicles,” Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said in the release. “There are many factors for our success, including our central East Coast location, premier quality of life and low cost of business, but our greatest asset is our diverse and highly-skilled workforce that is supported by our top-rated education system.”

Triad’s new ventures

Boom Supersonic, for one, said that access to high-powered colleges in North Carolina was one reason the company is investing $500 million to build that manufacturing facility on a plot near I-73 and Old Oak Ridge Road at PTIA, and the jet it plans to build there – called the Overture – would fly at roughly 1304.36 miles per hour and transport 65 to 80 passengers from New York to London in about 3.5 hours.

Toyota in December announced a nearly $1.3 billion investment to build its first battery plant for electronic vehicles on the site near Liberty. That plan pledges $1,750 jobs at a median salary of $62,234 by Dec. 31, 2026. The state approved $271.4 million in total incentives. There also is a planned Phase 2 that would push those figures to 3,875 jobs and an investment of about $3 billion.

Working together

NC Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden)
House Speaker Tim Moore (NCGA)

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) long have touted the steps the legislature has taken to hold down corporate tax rates as a key to developing the economic stability of the state when there are so many national pulls in the post-pandemic economy.

“This is what happens when you keep taxes low, balance the budget responsibly, and invest in workforce development,” state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) posted on his Twitter feed.

Berger, Moore and Cooper certainly have shown up together for the announcements of all these new ventures.

“When Republicans won control of the General Assembly over a decade ago, we put North Carolina on a direct path toward becoming the best state in the country for business,” Berger said in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon. “From reforming our tax policy to creating some of the best incentives in the nation, North Carolina is a magnet for business creation and expansion.”

“We disagree about plenty, and my vetoes have been able to stop a lot of bad legislation that has come forward,” Cooper said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday morning. “But high-paying jobs for our people is something we have to agree upon.”