Updated March 29 at 6:25am
economic development

Competitiveness study: Rhode Island ranks No. 20 overall, No. 2 for security


BOSTON – Rhode Island was awarded a No. 20 ranking in the nation in the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University’s 2010 State Competitiveness Report Monday, helped by a No. 2 ranking for security.

The Beacon Hill Institute - a think tank that is a proponent of limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets - considers a state competitive “if it has in place the policies and conditions that ensure and sustain a high level of per capita income and continued growth.”

“The state should be able to both attract and incubate new businesses and provide an environment that is conducive to the growth of existing firms,” the Beacon Institute said. Its ranking studies 43 indicators, divided into eight subindexes: government and fiscal policy, infrastructure, security, human resources, technology, openness, business incubation and environmental policy.

While Rhode Island ranked 20th overall, Massachusetts slipped to 3rd place after two consecutive years at No. 1.

“The Bay State still benefits from a diverse economy demonstrating success in human resources, technology and openness to trade, and its ability to attract foreign investment,” said Jonathan Haughton, professor of economics at Suffolk University and one of the principal authors of the report. “However, the persistent problems of high electricity and housing costs, coupled with infrastructure issues, put the state at risk.”

Rhode Island’s No. 2 rank for security was driven by a No. 2 ranking for the Better Government Association integrity index, as well as good showings in crime statistics.

The Ocean State also fared well on the technology index (No. 8), supported by the number of science and engineering degrees awarded per 100,000 inhabitants and the per capita amount of National Institutes of Health support to institutions.

On the other side of the spectrum, Rhode Island’s worst ranking was for its government and fiscal policy, weighed down by the average benefit payment for the unemployed, which ranked 46th. Other subindexes on the lower half of the ranking were environmental policy (No. 35), infrastructure (No. 34) and business incubation (No. 32).

The state did fare better than average on the human resources (No. 18) and openess (No. 21) subindexes.

Overall, the 2010 ranking represented an improvement from 2009’s No. 29 showing and the 2008 No. 31 placement.

North Dakota took over the top spot, based on a “strong showing” in human resources, technology and infrastructure. The state - which benefited from comparatively low oil and gas costs, and high demand for its energy - also showed good fiscal stewardship, and a very capable work force, the institute said.

Filling out the top 10 were Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota, Iowa and New Hampshire, Beacon Hill said, noting that most of the highest-ranking states benefited from a favorable mix of natural resources and human capital.

In the overall ranking, the lowest-scoring states were Alabama (No. 48), West Virginia (No. 49) and Mississippi (No. 50).

For more information on the Beacon Hill Institute study, click here.


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