CNBC business scorecard ranks Hawaii poorly

Hawaii was ranked among the worst states for businesses, according to scorecard on state economic climates published this week by CNBC.

All 50 states were graded on more than 60 measures in 10 broad, weighted categories: workforce, economy, infrastructure, cost of doing business, quality of life, education, technology and innovation, business friendliness, access to capital and cost of living.

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Hawaii ranked 49th overall, and received grades of “F’ in the areas of workforce (ranked 46th), economy (47th), infrastructure (49th), cost of doing business (49th), technology and innovation (40th), access to capital (44th) and cost of living (50th).

The state, did however, rank first in quality of life, receiving an A+ on the score card in that category, and ranked 26th in education with a grade of C+, and 42nd in business friendliness, with a grade of D-.

David Hammes, a retired University of Hawaii at Hilo professor of economics, said the problem with a survey like this, is that “the types of businesses that succeed are going to be the ones where the measures we do poorly, based on a national scale, don’t matter so much, and the ones we do well on matter a lot.”

So even though the overall outcome might be low, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad business climate, he said.

“The types of businesses you see in different places will be the ones that are able to take advantage of the things we’re strong in and don’t rely so much on the things that we’re weak in.”

For instance, Hawaii likely won’t see industries like heavy manufacturing where a business would want to minimize costs of imports and shipping and be close to customers because of its geographic location, Hammes said.

But if a business is trying to attract an employee base “and say you have a pretty darn nice quality of life, then we may have more of those businesses that rely on that.”

Hammes said rankings like this aren’t useless, but he’s doubtful anyone would “base a serious business decision on it,” because those individuals are usually looking at “much, much more granular details.”

In 2018, Hawaii ranked 47th overall.

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This year, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Utah and Washington took the top five spots, and Rhode Island was ranked 50th.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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