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Homeamericas top states for businessVirginia is back as America's Top State for Business in 2021

Virginia is back as America’s Top State for Business in 2021

  • A strong workforce and a solid education system propelled Virginia to its second straight win in CNBC's state competitiveness rankings.
  • Virginia has captured top honors five times — more than any other state — and is the first state to notch back-to-back wins.
  • Maryland was this year's most improved state, while Oregon posted the biggest decline. Alaska finished last.
  • The 2021 CNBC study features multiple changes to account for a vastly altered competitive landscape coming out of the pandemic.

The Virginia State flag and the American flag fly near the Virginia State Capitol.Drew Angerer | Getty Images

A year of pandemic and social reckoning has changed the nation in countless ways. But one thing has stayed the same: America's Top State for Business is Virginia.

The Old Dominion captures top honors in CNBC's 2021 competitiveness rankings, just as it did in the previous study published in 2019. It is Virginia's fifth win since the study began in 2007, more than any other state. And it is the first state to post back-to-back victories (CNBC did not publish rankings in 2020 due to the pandemic.)

Virginia pulls off the repeat performance despite a vastly altered competitive landscape, a testament to the resilience of the state's business climate.

Mitsui Osk Lines ship MOL Magnificence docked at one of Norfolk's port terminals.Alexandre Tziripouloff | iStock Editorial | Getty Images

"We've seen a remarkable V-shaped recovery from Covid," said Stephen Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Port of Virginia, a major economic engine in the state, which is in the middle of a 10-year, $1.5 billion expansion. "May 2021 was an all-time record for the port, 56% bigger than we were last year, and significantly above 2019."

"We put a lot of investment and a lot thought into our port and it is a tremendous asset for our economy," Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Going into the pandemic and coming out of it, Virginia's greatest strength has been its ability to nurture and retain talent. Public schools perform well in terms of test scores, and a world-class higher education system is reliably funded.


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