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Which State Was Just Ranked No. 1 for Business? CNBC's annual state ranking is out and this year marked the closest finish ever.

By David James

Key Takeaways

  • Virginia leads CNBC’s 2024 rankings as the top state for business for the sixth time, thanks to its stellar education system and business-friendly policies.
  • Virginia shines in infrastructure and accessibility.
  • Gov. Youngkin announced major capital commitments and tax relief efforts.

Virginia took the top spot on CNBC's 2024 rankings of America's best states for business. It's the state's sixth year at no. 1, a validation of its strong policies and infrastructure that spur economic growth. According to CNBC, this year's rankings had its closest finish ever, with Virginia barely beating out last year's winner North Carolina.

Virginia distinguished itself with an education system that has been recognized as the best in the nation and a nurturing business environment that boasts a balance of growth, accessibility, and strategic location, according to the list makers.

With 121 million people within a day's drive and a towering presence on the internet—a staggering 70% of the world's traffic flowing through Northern Virginia—the state's reach is formidable. Governor Glenn Youngkin's recent strategies, including initiating the construction of the U.S.'s first small modular nuclear reactor to address power needs, underscore the state's commitment to maintaining robust infrastructure. In addition, the state's readiness to provide sites for rapid corporate expansion emphasizes Virginia's proactive stance in economic development.

Thanks to a 28% increase in state support for higher education and a strong K-12 system over the past five years, CNBC says the state sets an example for educational excellence. Bipartisan, proactive measures culminated in substantial new funding for schools and improved compensation for educators and state workers.

Virginia's legislature, although ideologically divided, plays its part in sustaining the state's economic dynamism by upholding a balance in tax policies that contributes to a competitive business cost structure. Republican Youngkin and state Democrats reached a stalemate in 2024 budget talks, and approved a plan that neither raises nor lowers taxes, reports CNBC. Governor Youngkin's $74 billion capital inflow coupled with $5 billion in tax reductions propelled Virginia toward a more favorable economic trajectory.

It's not all smooth sailing for Virginia's ambitions, however, as the state continues to navigate the complexities of politics and economic challenges. Governor Youngkins' attempt to seize major sports franchises for a new district fell through amidst political and fiscal scrutiny, highlighting that even the most successful strategies face their limits. "It was a real disappointment that the Capitals and Wizards ended up not coming to Virginia, but the reality is that stadium deals are hard, and we put together possibly the best stadium deal ever and still weren't able to get it done through the General Assembly. We don't win 'em all," Youngkin told CNBC. But the overarching message remains clear: Virginia, through concerted effort and strategic governance, exemplifies what it means to create a thriving, business-centric state in today's competitive landscape.

Find out where your state ranked at CNBC

David James

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff writer

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