- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Chief executive officers across the nation generally have a positive view of Alabama’s friendliness to business, but they also have a not-so-pleasing perception of the state’s workforce and living environment. CEOs from businesses located in Alabama give more positive ratings.

Those views are expressed in Chief Executive magazine’s annual “Best and Worst States for Business” survey.

The survey ranks Alabama the 20th-best state for doing business. That is up from No. 24 in last year’s survey, but down from the 2014 ranking of 17 and the 2013 ranking of 16.

The top five states, in order, are Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, according to the survey results.

More than 500 CEOs from across the nation took part in the survey, which focused on three factors - taxes and regulations, workforce quality, and living environment. The CEOs were asked to list the four best and four worst states in those factors.



Alabama was 17th in taxes and regulation, 33rd in workforce quality and 33rd in living environment.

This year’s survey also gauged how CEOs view the state where they operate, compared to those who do not directly deal with that state. It found that perceptions among CEOs in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii rank their states as more friendly, compared to how out-of-state CEOs judge the categories.

Forrest Wright, president of the Shoals Economic Development Authority, said he is not surprised by that finding.

“That’s the same perception that we run into over and over again, as I’m sure people in other parts of business run into, as well,” Wright said.

“The issue is that Alabama still has a perception that’s probably not as conducive to good business as the fact is, and that’s always something you have to overcome in discussions,” Wright said.

He said that’s an important thing to remember when presenting facts to prospective industries. When prospects listen with an open mind, it is easier to get through to them and prove Alabama is a good state in which to locate.

“The CEOs who operate in the state will agree with that, but we have competitors all over the world who will try to dispel that fact,” Wright said.

He said local recruiters emphasize the quality of life in the Shoals, itself, rather than the entire state.

“Obviously, there are pockets within any state, including Alabama, that are not as successful as the state as a whole, and others that are more successful than the state as a whole,” Wright said.

Marshall Cooper, CEO of Chief Executive magazine and ChiefExecutive.net, said businesses are having trouble finding talented candidates in an era of “digital transformation.”

Cooper said he believes the rankings “show that CEOs support states that understand and offer solutions to those challenges.”

J.P. Donlon, editor-in-chief emeritus of the magazine and website, said businesses are attracted to states that most appreciate the concept of maintaining a competitive environment.

“Many governors have gotten openly proactive about trying to steal business away from other states, and this new ‘war’ game has every economic development team on alert,” Donlon said.

Each of the three criteria considered in the survey had variables incorporated.

For example, under taxation and regulations, the variables included state income tax and corporate tax rates, the perceived attitude government has toward business, degree of employment, environmental compliance regulations and tax incentives.

Workforce quality variables included employee-management relationships, work ethic, education level, wage rates and availability of the workforce that has specialized experience and education.

Living environment factors include crime rate, quality of education and health care, cost of real estate, transportation access, and arts and cultural institutions.

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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