Business rankings should be taken with salt, but not ignored

Talk about taking it on the chin.

In two national surveys published since the beginning of July, Rhode Island ranked last in the nation in key business metrics.

One can argue with how the lists’ final rankings come together, but much of the underlying data gives a better glimpse of what is going on.

For example, in the CNBC rank for best business climate, the Ocean State’s highest ranking is education at No. 25, a position that is that high no doubt because of the many high-quality higher education institutions here and certainly not for the condition and atmosphere of primary and secondary schools.

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Predictably, the worst rank for the state came in the category of infrastructure, which is the most direct sign that little investment has been made over the decades in the underpinnings of a functioning economy.

Based on the most recent General Assembly budget, we know that investment – especially in people – remains a lower priority than it could be [see earlier point on education].

The second ranking, by WalletHub, about the best states to start a business in, uses hard data that is even more difficult to stomach.

For instance, GDP growth from 2017 to 2018 was 0.63%, ranking No. 47 in the nation. Job growth from 2013 to 2017 was 1.19%, No. 25 in the nation, but given how far down the state had fallen and remained following the Great Recession, this growth seems a little anemic.

Lists such as these can be talking points and should not be taken as gospel. But so many poor rankings in terms of business climate should serve as a reminder that Rhode Island has a long way to go.