For as long as anyone can remember, Nevada has touted itself as a great place to do business. It turns out that we may be giving ourselves the business instead. That would shock many who have long hailed our business climate. But to disagree, they would have to disagree with CNBC, network of Tea Party ranting and experts hired for their ability to be wrong. If we can’t believe them … .
Each year, CNBC ranks America’s states for business. This year, South Dakota won. Nevada fell from 45th to 46th.
What does South Dakota have that we lack? CNBC uses 10 categories, with a weighted point system, and South Dakota rated high for cost of doing business (No. 1 to Nevada’s No. 30), business friendliness (No. 2 to our No. 22), economy (No. 6 to this state’s—uh oh—No. 50) and quality of life (No. 7, a bit ahead of our No. 47). The most points are awarded for the first category, which helped South Dakota outpace everyone else.
From Northern Nevada came the declaration that the ratings don’t reflect the Reno-Sparks area’s great success in drawing business. Before the rankings appeared, Governor Brian Sandoval appeared on CNBC’s website, explaining his state is better than anywhere else—a claim made by every governor who contributed, of course. “Businesses large and small thrive in Nevada because of the commitments we make to foster a business-friendly environment: economic-development programs, public and private partnerships to grow innovation, a low tax burden and access to millions of customers worldwide within a day’s travel,” he said. “All of these things work in conjunction to make Nevada one of the top states for business in the country.”
But not, it seems, according to CNBC.
These rankings should tell us something. “We partnered with private industry and higher education to not only spur innovation in Nevada,” Sandoval said, “but also create the workforce of Nevada’s future.” Nevada’s best ranking was No. 13 in workforce. So, what needs to be changed? And are those changes for the better?
Our economy ranks last. The low-tax climate Sandoval and others praise doesn’t exist in Massachusetts or New York, but their unemployment rate is lower and their ranking here is higher.
Further, Nevada is rock-bottom in education. Set aside us liberal-arts types—the ones who teach students to read, write and think so they can prepare for any job. Numerous business leaders have expressed displeasure with the Nevada System of Higher Education, including the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. If we are as innovative and entrepreneurial as we claim—Sandoval isn’t the only guilty party here, and it’s his job to hawk Nevada—why haven’t we come up with ways to fix that area other than inviting in overpriced “educational reformers”—hello, former state superintendent James Guthrie and ex-Clark County School District superintendent Dwight Jones—to try to impose their will? While Sandoval praises Tony Hsieh and other innovators, how many of their high-tech corporations originated here, built by people who were educated here?
Also, Nevada ranks near the bottom in “quality of life.” That’s a broad term. But while the innovative and entrepreneurial want a good business climate, they also tend to like good schools, especially ones at the forefront of training others to be innovative and entrepreneurial. They might even want to go to parks, theaters and museums, and have access to the best possible medical care.
These areas bore the brunt of our budget cuts and tax phobia. It’s all of a piece. And the usual Nevada solution is for the Legislature to make believe it will study the problem, for the governor’s office to keep cutting and for state government to hire high-priced, out-of-state consultants to tell us what to do—the same kinds of out-of-state people we attack as carpetbaggers who tell us we’re bad. Just like CNBC did.
So, is CNBC right to rank us as it did? We can say no, but there’s one area where Nevada always has ranked at the top: denial.