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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, September 10, 2017 2:20 pm

FACT CHECK: Greitens' claim of improving business climate half true

Carolina Vargas and Emma Diltz | Associated Press

 

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens recently announced the launch of a new website aimed at cutting the red tape that he believes is negatively impacting Missouri businesses. This is but one of the initiatives Greitens has taken to grow business in Missouri.

In a Facebook Live Q&A (at the 4:48 mark) on Aug. 23, 2017, Greitens shared that Missouri’s economy is on the rise, thanks to his work on cutting regulations.

“Just in our first six months in office, Missouri moved up the rankings nine places … in the rankings of the best states to do business,” Greitens said in the Facebook Live video.

Is that true?

One list among many

Parker Briden, Greitens’ press secretary, said the governor was citing CNBC’s annual list of America’s Top States for Business, which was published July 11. Missouri moved up nine spaces in 2017, from 31 to 22.

Among other lists regarding the best states to do business is Forbes and Chief Executive, both placing Missouri at 25, falling within the range calculated by CNBC for its 2016 and 2017 lists. Five other lists also saw an increase in ranking for Missouri.

Another site worth noting is Site Selection, which does not update its ranking until later this year. This could impact how progress is ultimately seen for states like Missouri.

While consistent in nature, experts point out that compiling these rankings takes time, indicating that Greitens‘ “mission to turn Missouri around,” as his campaign website states, might not truly be all his doing.

“Much, if not most, of the data that goes into this ranking was collected more than six months ago. Thus, it may be a little premature to take credit for these changes,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

While these lists can garner a lot of media attention, they should be viewed cautiously.

“The issue of ranking states as ‘best for business’ makes for interesting reading, but I expect most serious economists would be skeptical of any one approach,” said Lee McPheters, an economist at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

CNBC’s methodology

CNBC’s analysis compares states among 66 factors across 10 categories. The study takes into account what each state deems the most important to its business environment by analyzing each state’s economic development marketing materials.

The 10 categories are workforce, infrastructure, cost of doing business, economy, quality of life, technology and innovation, education, business friendliness, access to capital and cost of living. Each category comes with individual point weights. The rankings are based mainly on publicly available sources from federal databases.

Methodologies vary across different business surveys.

“There are many of these studies with varying methodology and there is not usually a lot of solid economic research to back up most of them,” McPheters said.

McPheters points out that, in order to see progress for a state, the numbers do not necessarily need to match up, but there must be a consistent improvement among the differing lists.

Our ruling

Greitens, talking on Facebook Live about his first six months as Missouri governor, said, “Just in our first six months in office, Missouri moved up the rankings nine places … in the rankings of the best states to do business.”

Greitens credited this change to his cutting regulations, which he said is prompting a rise in the state’s economy.

CNBC moved Missouri up nine spots on its annual America’s Top States for Business list. That’s only one ranking, among many, that can be considered, and it’s impossible to say that its methodology is perfect.

Experts suggest that, while the methodologies of these lists vary significantly, it might be better to derive a decision if Missouri’s ranking has increased on all of them, which is true among five other lists.

However, experts said it is premature for Greitens to assume credit for the improvement in rankings.

Greitens is partially accurate. We rate his claim Half True.

Supervising editor is Tom Warhover.

“Just in our first six months in office, Missouri moved up the rankings nine places … in the rankings of the best states to do business.” Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in an Aug. 23 Facebook Live video