Consider economic rankings carefully before drawing conclusions

At best, national rankings of state business friendliness can help elected officials consider public-policy initiatives.

For instance, after being hammered for years on the matter, the 2010 lowering of the top-tier personal income tax rate from 9.9 percent to 5.9 percent improved Rhode Island’s relative ranking on many of the economic-friendliness lists.

Most recently, CNBC ranked Little Rhody No. 45 for business friendliness, tied with Maine as the lowest-ranked New England states.

As part of the study, Rhode Island was given a last-place ranking for infrastructure, yet no credit is given for the infrastructure spending happening under the current administration.

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Some of the ranking data is the most recent available, which means it can be out of date. Policy changes made over the last couple of years may not have had a chance to take full effect, yet the rankings become fodder for beating up (or puffing up) accomplishments.

The point is, look at these rankings, talk about them, but remember to dig deeper into the underlying data. To do otherwise can distort the full picture.