Florida's standing as one of the top states for business just suffered a serious bruising, dropping 11 spots from 18th to 29th in a single year, according to an in-depth annual analysis by CNBC.
The dramatic drop is based on an overall state ranking gleaned from 10 separately ranked factors as diverse as education, access to capital and quality of life in the CNBC report called America's Top Business for States 2012.
The decline raises questions about the Pollyanna forecasts from Florida Gov. Rick Scott who this week insisted the Sunshine State has made a strong turnaround in the right direction.
Apparently CNBC analysts are looking at Florida without the benefit of rose-colored glasses. They smacked Florida with an 11-spot drop among the states driven by several specific category declines in the past year.
• Access to capital. Florida dropped to 24th from 9th.
• Education. Florida fell to 42nd from 35th.
• Infrastructure and transportation. Florida dipped to 11th from 8th last year.
Only two states suffered sharper declines from 2011 to 2012. Massachusetts, as high as No. 6 last year, fell 22 spots to 28th. And Pennsylvania, a healthy 12th in 2011, dropped 18 spots to 30 this year. In addition to Florida, Missouri and New Jersey also fell 11 spots in the past year.
Among the most improved states? Iowa jumped 18 spots to No. 13 while Montana climbed 14 spots to No. 24.
The top three states in the survey are Texas, Utah and Virginia. At the bottom are West Virginia, Hawaii and Rhode Island.
Florida ranked surprisingly poorly in some areas. Florida lagged near the bottom in the "cost of doing business" — a major factor for businesses considering relocations — despite the state's lack of an income tax and Gov. Scott's hard push to drop already low business taxes. CNBC said it also examined other costs like property taxes.
A key point: "Utility costs can add up to a huge expense for business, and they vary widely by state," CNBC said. That caught my eye given the ongoing, controversial purchase of Progress Energy by Duke Energy and the promise of even higher electric rates.
In contrast, Florida Power & Light in South Florida offers electric rates more than 25 percent cheaper than Progress Energy Florida.
Another disturbingly low ranking was Florida's "quality of life" which rose one paltry spot to 30 from 31 last year. CNBC scored this category on such factors as local attractions, crime rate, and air and water quality.
Florida once again competed well in the "workforce" category. The state was No. 3 this year, down from No. 2 in 2011. CNBC rated states based on workers' education level, the sheer number of available workers and even union membership.
Bottom line? Lots of surveys make similar business comparisons. Forbes does so, as do the Milken Institute, Brookings, and Chief Executive and Site Selection magazines, among others.
So take this dismal decline by CNBC with a grain of salt. Just as we should think twice before believing Gov. Scott that Florida is back on track.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]