May 30, 2017

Bay State gets high business scores in report

Construction on Front Street in Worcester. The state's business community got high marks in a MassEcon report.

Massachusetts's business climate won high marks from dozens of companies interviewed for a new MassEcon report, particularly for its educated workforce and infrastructure.

Of the 74 businesses taking part - including giants like GE Healthcare, IBM and Shire - 96 percent said they chose the Bay State for the quality of its workforce. Of the state's adults, 41 percent have a bachelor's degree, the highest in the country, compared to 30 percent nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In other findings, 77 percent of companies said they would choose again to expand in the state. The state was rated as a good or very good place to do business by 64 percent of respondents.

The old adage of Taxachusetts, for the state's supposed high business tax burden, has lived on but doesn't exactly fit anymore, Mark Melnik, the director of economic and public policy research at the UMass Donahue Institute, an economic think tank which conducted the study for the public-private state promotion organization Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development, or MassEcon.

"It doesn't really jibe with reality," he said at a 495/MetroWest Partnership meeting on May 25.

Companies told the Donahue Institute they found the state's transportation system to be both an asset and a challenge. Those businesses, particularly in the western part of the state, said the highway system is a strength, allowing them to connect to customers and suppliers throughout the Northeast. Closer to Boston, Logan International Airport is seen as a major advantage with so many flights to Europe or the West Coast. Yet, the region's congested highways and unreliable subway and commuter rail system were described by businesses as drawbacks.

Among other concerns cited by businesses, several said they had lingering worries of the state's competitive economic advantage, with high housing and labor costs in the area, particularly closer to Boston. Farther out from the city, companies are more likely to have difficulty attracting and retaining young workers.

The report will help state economic leaders, municipal officials and others keep Massachusetts competitive with businesses, Melnik said.

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