After four years at dead last, Maine inches up to 49th in Forbes ranking


Gov. Paul LePage's "Open for Business" sign greets motorists on Interstate-95 in Kittery. BDN file photo.

Gov. Paul LePage’s “Open for Business” sign greets motorists on Interstate-95 in Kittery. BDN file photo.

After four years stuck at the bottom of the Forbes’ state business rankings, Maine is finally on the move — all the way up to 49th.

Forbes released its “Best States for Business” list Wednesday, and the Pine Tree State ticked up one position after Mississippi dropped down to 50th.

The rankings consider 36 data points across six main business areas, Forbes wrote: business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.

“Much of the blame for [Maine’s] poor showing in recent years can be placed on the state’s high corporate tax burden and lousy job and economic growth forecast,” Forbes states. “Job and income growth are expected to be among the slowest in the U.S. through 2018. Maine has few big businesses located there, including none of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies by sales.”

Taking a deeper look, Maine this year ranked near the bottom — 48th place — in growth prospects and economic climate. It ranked 45th in regulatory environment and 40th in business costs. Brighter spots, but by no means glowing, were the states labor supply, at 36th place, and quality of life, at 27th.

“Business costs” is the most heavily weighted component in the rankings, Forbes said. Those costs includes labor, taxes and energy. Gov. Paul LePage has regularly called for the state to do more to address the high cost of energy in Maine, which was one of the reasons cited for the recent closures of several of the state’s mills.

The state’s longtime bottom-dwelling status on the Forbes ranking list has been fodder for politicians on both sides of the aisle in recent years and despite the (ever-so-slightly) better ranking, business and political leaders are unlikely to celebrate Maine’s upward momentum.

Democrats, for example, have played Maine’s 50th place ranking as damning evidence that LePage has failed to turn around the state’s economy.

“It’s no surprise to see Forbes confirm what every Mainer already knows: Governor LePage has been bad for Maine’s economy, bad for our middle class, and bad for our small businesses,” said House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, when last year’s rankings were released.

Meanwhile, the governor has used the ranking to fuel his argument that the state must do more to be business friendly, such as cutting taxes and controlling energy costs.

“We can disagree with Forbes analysis; however, America’s job creators listen to them,” LePage said during his 2013 State of the State Address. “Denial or sticking our heads in the sand will not change the reality. We must put ideologies aside and get to work to make Maine a competitive and prosperous state.”

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.