CEOs pan Hawaii’s
business climate

Hawaii remains one of the least attractive states to do business in, according to a poll of 458 American chief executives, which ranked the island business scene in the bottom five for business-friendliness.

The survey by Chief Executive Magazine named California and New York as the least attractive states for business, followed by Massachusetts, Washington and Hawaii.

The best states for business were Texas, Florida, and Nevada. The survey rated states on taxation, regulations, labor laws, litigation, education and other factors.

Much needs to be done to reduce the cost of doing business in Hawaii, but such surveys tell only part of the story, said Jim Tollefson, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

Tollefson said the chamber and its allies plan next year to resume a battle to reform a workers' compensation system that has made Hawaii's workers' compensation costs the nation's third-highest.

But he said the state's strong economy, low unemployment, hot visitor industry, a planned influx of Department of Defense funding, and continued heavy investment in real estate, hotels and other businesses by out-of-state entities indicate that not everyone sees Hawaii as unfriendly to business.

"We wouldn't see that rate of investment if everyone saw things as negatively as the magazines do," he said. "There is a lot of optimism out there, and we look forward to seeing if can alleviate some of the cost of business."

Corporate leaders also said they are more upbeat about the economy after President Bush's re-election. The magazine's CEO confidence index rose 6 percent in December, the first such survey since the Nov. 2 election.

U.S. corporate leaders polled last month by the Business Roundtable also said they were more optimistic about the economy. The outlook index, determined by a poll of 131 of the Washington-based Business Roundtable's members, was 98.9 for the fourth quarter, the second-highest mark after a record of 101.7 in the third quarter this year.

Star-Bulletin reporter Dan Martin and Bloomberg News contributed to this report

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