CNBC ranks R.I. last for business climate in 2019

RHODE ISLAND ranekd last in the 2019 America's Top States for Business released by CNBC. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CHRIS BERGENHEIM
RHODE ISLAND ranekd last in the 2019 America's Top States for Business released by CNBC. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CHRIS BERGENHEIM

PROVIDENCE – For the second time this week, Rhode Island has received a last place ranking in a report measuring business competitiveness.

CNBC ranked Rhode Island No. 50 in the 2019 America’s Top States for Business, released Wednesday. Earlier in the week, WalletHub also deemed the state the worst for starting a business. The Ocean State was ranked No. 45 in 2018 and 2017 by CNBC for business competitiveness.

The report uses more than 60 metrics that are graded in 10 categories: workforce, economy, infrastructure, cost of doing business, quality of life, education, technology and innovation, business friendliness, access to capital, and cost of living.

Rhode Island’s five worst category rankings:

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  • No. 50 for infrastructure (No change from 2018)
  • No. 48 for economy (No. 28 in 2018)
  • No. 44 for cost of doing business (No change from 2018)
  • No. 40 for business friendliness (No. 38 in 2018)
  • No. 41 for cost of living (No. 42 in 2018)

Rhode Island top five rankings:

  • No. 25 for education (No. 28 in 2018)
  • No. 27 for technology and innovation (No. 33 in 2018)
  • No. 28 for quality of life (No. 27 in 2018)
  • No. 32 for workforce (No. 15 in 2018)
  • No. 39 for access to capital (No. 43 in 2018)

Virginia ranked No. 1 overall this year, followed by Texas and North Carolina. Rounding out the worst performances on the rankings for the year were Rhode Island, Hawaii and Mississippi.

“Just two months ago, WalletHub ranked Rhode Island in the top 10 states for jobs.” said R.I. Commerce Corp. spokesman Matt Sheaff Wednesday. “It’s clear the CNBC ranking failed to account for significant investments we have made in recent years in infrastructure, workforce development and business growth – investments that have helped produce the largest drop in unemployment in the nation, the first positive labor force growth in over a decade, wage growth that is outpacing the nation, and a record-high number of jobs. While this ranking paints an inaccurate picture of Rhode Island’s economy, the fact remains that we still have more work to do. It’s critical that we keep our foot on the gas and redouble our efforts around education and workforce development, infrastructure, and economic growth – to ensure every Rhode Islander is included in our recovery.”

In an article accompanying the rankings, CNBC noted that the state’s efforts to improve infrastructure and business climate but said that the efforts have not yet translated into results. It did say, however, that the state was headed in the correct direction despite the low ranking.

CNBC New England state overall rankings in 2019:

  • Massachusetts: No. 14
  • New Hampshire: No. 25
  • Connecticut: No. 35
  • Vermont: No. 40
  • Maine: No. 44
  • Rhode Island No. 50

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. You may reach him at

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