Unemployment may still be too high and investment and job growth too stagnant across the U.S., but not every state has accepted these economic conditions as the new normal. An “Enterprising States” report recently released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation and authored by economist Joel Kotkin highlights a dozen states whose economies have actually grown since the recession, including North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Texas and Montana.
These states all showed more than 8 percent job growth over the last decade, while 22 others racked up milder but still respectable employment gains over the past 10 years. The report offers other reasons for optimism as well, including growth in private sector jobs across all states since January 2011 and the resurgence of states like Michigan, California and Florida that were hit hardest by the recession.
States charting the strongest job growth — Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and North Dakota, among others — shared some common priorities, policies and programs, some of which include:
•Helping companies within their borders reach an expanding global marketplace
•Developing a technologically savvy and innovative workforce
•Capitalizing on natural resources and creating new opportunities in historically competitive industry sectors
•Investing in physically engineered and digital infrastructure to help businesses connect to markets and customers
•Building partnerships between government, colleges and universities, and the private sector
•Encouraging entrepreneurship and building a business-friendly culture
•Maintaining an affordable cost of living
Even with its slow recovery, the U.S. continues to be fertile ground for foreign investors and skilled immigrants, and globally it has several advantages over its European and Asian competitors right now, including rising agricultural and energy production and the reshoring of U.S.-based manufacturing jobs.
So what will it take for more states to maximize these opportunities and get their economies growing again? It will take more than a single-sector focus, writes Kotkin in a post on his NewGeography blog.
Attention must be paid to both basic and advanced industries since innovation and technology growth alone cannot turn around most regions and states. More than anything, governments and business leaders need to appreciate how these sectors interact with each other.
What else is required for jump-starting economic growth? According to the report, other successful strategies for states include using innovation and technology to unlock new potential in traditional industries; creating a business climate that helps companies and entrepreneurs succeed; developing a highly skilled workforce with an emphasis in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) training.
Where does your state rank on economic performance? How about exports, talent, infrastructure, taxes and regulation, and innovation and entrepreneurship? Check out this interactive map to find out.