Hawaii's poor business image improves
While Hawaii is still a tough place for business in the nation, its perception among top executives has improved significantly, according to Chief Executive magazine's most recent CEO Confidence Index.
Readers of Chief Executive, a 170,000-circulation business trade publication, ranked Hawaii 39 out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for doing business -- an improvement over last year's result, when Hawaii ranked a dismal 47th. Last year was the first year of the poll.
"It's a positive step for Hawaii," said Matt Farrell, a spokesman for Chief Executive. "If you look at the bigger states, New York, California, Massachusetts, there is no real movement."
While Hawaii's key industries may be hot, the climate for business has always run lukewarm to cold. Critics say the price of shipping, real estate, utilities, health care, workers compensation and labor has made it difficult for many small businesses to thrive, and has deterred many larger businesses from expanding. Historically, Hawaii has been painted as a place for sun, sand and Aloha Fridays, not business.
The 339 executives polled by Chief Executive for the index were asked to rank the importance of social, political and economic factors when considering where they wanted to do business. Labor and politics were ranked as the most important factors along with work force quality, taxation and regulation.
Randy Tanaka, director of business development for the Hawaii Convention Center, said the image of Hawaii as a place to do business is something the meetings, incentive and group travel markets have long struggled to convey.
Tanaka said he was heartened by the results, which indicate "a significant attitudinal shift" in Hawaii's favor, but the state is still too far down the rankings for him to use the poll to help boost business.
"If we ever get to the top 10, I'll blow that horn so loud ... " Tanaka said.
Hawaii still has far to go to reach the top of the survey, Tanaka said, but in recent years he has seen the state's reputation as a serious place to do business improve.
"We're seeing results from our Hawaii Advantage campaign," he said. "We've got substantial testimony from clients that their delegates don't spend all their time on the beach."
Those polled by the magazine ranked California, New York and Massachusetts as the three worst states to do business. They ranked Texas, Nevada and North Carolina as the best states.
Following the rankings, CEOs also gave their advice to the governors and state legislatures of the lower-ranked states: Ease regulations and state interference in business affairs.
"The message CEOs are trying to communicate is that they want to do business in states run by political common sense and policies that support business growth," said Edward M. Kopko, president and chief executive of the Chief Executive Group.
Most of the executives surveyed were bullish about the economy in general and reported their highest confidence levels ever.
Over half the executives surveyed rated employment conditions as "good" and said they expected hiring at their companies this quarter. A majority of those surveyed also ranked current investment conditions as "good."