RI’s Real Business Ranking - a Look at All the Rankings

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


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On average ranks at in the bottom third

Rhode Island is certainly not as good a place for business as Governor Gina Raimondo claims and it is not necessarily as bad as CNBC’s ranking, but a comprehensive review of all the major business rankings puts Rhode Island in the bottom third of all the states and unveils that the effort to improve the economy has major weaknesses.

A review conducted by the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University finds that the individual rankings range widely, but overall Rhode Island ranks towards the bottom for business.

"Americans are obsessed with rankings. We have an unquenchable thirst to understand who is up and who is down. As a nation, we are bombarded with stories ranking everything from the best schools and the best places to retire to the best states in which to do business. When a state consistently ranks near the top or the bottom, the effect on public perception can take on a life of its own," said the report from the Hassenfeld Institute.

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Gary Sasse, Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University

Gary Sasse says that rankings matter because they can create an overall impression of the state's business attitude -- the rankings help define the perception. Last week, CNBC - the business cable network - ranked Rhode Island #45 for the second consecutive year.

"Rhode Island continues to make good progress on key economic indicators and in a variety of ranking systems. On this year’s CNBC survey we improved in half of the categories (5 out of 10) including ranking 15th best in the nation for our workforce (up from 27th last year). On the ranking of our economy we continue to improve, up one spot to 28th this year and our quality of life ranking improved by four spots," RI Commerce Corporation's Matt Sheaff told GoLocal.

Governor Gina Raimondo's office told GoLocal, "There are more jobs in Rhode Island today than ever before and the unemployment rate has been cut by one-third since Governor Raimondo was sworn in. Every ranking uses a different methodology."

Why Rankings Can Matter:

The Rhode Island General Assembly once appointed a task force to try and improve the state's ranking -- the initiative has had little effect. While Massachusett continues to move up in most of the studies - Rhode Island continues to lag the rest of the country and, in general, with Maine trail the rest of New England.

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"Rankings can be useful in highlighting trends and prompting policymakers to work on significant challenges facing the state and municipalities. They can also be wielded irresponsibly to score political points. It falls upon public leaders, journalists, educators and concerned citizens to use these studies with care and to understand the factors driving each ranking," said the report from the Hassenfeld Institute.

The study concludes, "For decades, there has been a perception that Rhode Island’s business climate has been a disincentive to investment. While much must be done to create good jobs and an environment where businesses can flourish, it’s not accurate to say that Rhode Island always ranks at or near the bottom in business rankings."

EDITOR'S NOTE - This is based on 2017. The 2018 CNBC was released last week and there was no material change for RI - it is still ranked #45.


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