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Forbes Magazine's 'Worst for Business' Ranking Ruffles Some Mainers' Feathers
12/13/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

For the third consecutive year, Forbes magazine has ranked Maine dead last as a good place for business. Several Maine business leaders say they can't argue with the magazine's statistics that put the state at a disadvantage in corporate income tax and energy costs. But they also say the Forbes model for evaluating the states is inherently biased, and fails to acknowlege advances the state has made in recent years. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Forbes Magazine's 'Worst for Business' Ranking Ruf Listen
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Every year at about this time, Dana Connors begins to get a little anxious as he awaits the arrival of Forbes magazine's list of states viewed as the best for business. For the last two years, Maine has finished last among all other states. And this was year, Maine was ranked as the big 5-0 again.

"Yes, those reports, those studies, are discouraging because people focus on the headline - 'worst place to do business.' That's what gets repeated," Connors says.

And that's of concern to Connors, who is president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Connors says he can't argue with the statistics cited by Forbes. The magazine claims that Maine is saddled with the second-highest corporate tax burden, at 16 percent above the national average, according to Moody's Analytics.

Energy costs - a problem frequently cited by Maine Gov. Paul LePage - average 27 percent above the U.S. average - like other New England states. The magazine laments the fact that Maine is mostly a state built on small businesses, and that few big businesses are headquartered here.

And then there is the fact that Maine is the oldest state in the country, with a median age of 42. Forbes described that statistic as a burden for the state. But MaineBiz publisher Donna Brassard would disagree.

"We're old? Well, that's great," she says. "I think we have an experienced population - a lot of very smart people are retiring to Maine, that gives us access to a resource of experienced people - people who can serve on non-profit boards, people who can help with entrepreneurship. I think it's great."

Several members of Maine's business community maintain that using Forbes criteria, it would be nearly impossible to rise to even the middle of the pack of its best business states list. Maine is projected to continue to be one of the oldest states in the country for many years ahead. Energy costs have been prohibitive to companies with high power needs.

And although Forbes did list Maine as 17th among states with the best quality of life, Dana Connors of the Maine Chamber says that factor isn't given the weight it deserves.

"Everybody would love to live here for the quality that we bring, in terms of safe living, the community concept. So that is never talked about in these reports. As a chamber of commerce, it's important to me that we talk about it," Connors says.

Gov. LePage said he wasn't surprised by Forbes' rating, adding that Maine's standing will change in the survey to number 51 when Puerto Rico becomes a state.



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