By putting partisanship aside, North Carolina is America’s Top State for Business in 2022 thanks to its strong economy and history of innovation.
North Carolina has rarely finished outside the top 10 in CNBC’s annual competitiveness rankings since 2007. Last year, the state placed second. 2022 is its first year at the top.
This year’s difference: State leaders put aside deep political divisions to boost business and the economy.
Republican State Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore were present when Gov. Roy Cooper signed a $2 billion factory deal with VinFast in March. The three crafted a $1.2 billion incentive package across party lines.
“VinFast’s commitment to North Carolina solidifies our position as a global leader for fostering innovation and supporting businesses,” Berger said that day.
The trio had crafted a transformative deal before. Apple announced last year that it would build its first East Coast hub in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region.
Last fall, Cooper and the General Assembly passed a two-year state budget, the first since Cooper took office in 2017. This month, Democrats and Republicans agreed on second-year budget adjustments, which the governor signed Monday. The two sides are close to a deal on expanding Medicaid, a sticking point since Cooper took office.
Alexander H. Jones wrote in Politics North Carolina in April that incentive and budget deals prove divided government works. Cooper and the GOP worked hand-in-hand.
According to CNBC, North Carolina’s solid finances are the nation’s top Economy. The state’s credit rating and budget are strong. Last year’s 6.7% economic growth and 3.6% job growth were among the nation’s best.
Access to Capital ranks second, behind California. Bank of America and Truist Financial, the nation’s second- and sixth-largest banks, are based in Charlotte. North Carolina companies also attracted $3.5 billion in venture capital last year, the sixth most in the country. The state’s bipartisan truce has revived business grant and loan programs.
Research Triangle Park ranks fifth in Technology and Innovation. North Carolina institutions are top recipients of NSF and NIH research funding, and the state ranks high for cryptocurrency mining, a new factor this year.
Workforce-wise, North Carolina ranks 12th. Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR driver and NBC Sports analyst, employs 140 people at Mooresville-based JR Motorsports.
“It’s easy for us to get some of the most talented people to work for our business,” he said. “We can’t win without great people. North Carolina gives us that opportunity.”
“Workforce is driving them right now,” Cooper told CNBC. They rely on North Carolina’s community colleges and public and private universities to provide the workforce they need.
However, there’s no perfect state. Life, Health, and Inclusion ranks North Carolina 28th.
The state retreated from HB2 after business criticism. In 2017, lawmakers repealed a law requiring people to use bathrooms matching their birth certificate gender. The law expired in 2020.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina is one of five states without a nondisabled discrimination law.
North Carolina is No. 1 in the percentage of women in the tech workforce and has the most four-year historically black colleges and universities, one of which graduates more black engineers than any other state (North Carolina A&T).
Per capita public health spending and hospital resources are also low. North Carolina’s rapid growth strains resources in both areas.