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Rhode Island rises to No. 46 in CNBC’s 2021 Top States for Business list

Massachusetts ranked No. 14 overall, but earned an “F” for the cost of doing business and the cost of living

Kristin May behind a protective screen at the Pink Pineapple boutique in Newport, Rhode Island.Maddie Meyer/Getty

PROVIDENCE — When Rhode Island ranked last in CNBC’s Top States for Business rankings in 2019, it was familiar territory. It was the fifth time that the Ocean State placed at No. 50, and has never moved higher than No. 45— which was the ranking it achieved in 2017 and again in 2018.

Then governor Gina M. Raimondo, now U.S. Commerce Secretary promised that the smallest state in the union would eventually come back by tidying up its finances and by creating jobs.

This year, Rhode Island moved up the rankings to No. 46 out of 50 on CNBC’s 2021 Top States for Business list, which published Tuesday. According to the ranking, the state improved its infrastructure.


“Rhode Island improves from last place in 2019 even as it remains in the bottom tier. The Ocean State’s physical infrastructure remains dismal, but good broadband and a reliable electric grid pull it out of the cellar,” wrote CNBC’s Scott Cohn in an article.

However, Rhode Island continued to receive a “F” for categories related to the cost of doing business, access to capital, and the cost of living. It received “D” to “D+” rankings for categories related to infrastructure and the economy, and received “C” to “C+” rankings for categories related to workforce, business friendliness, technology and innovation, and education.

The state received its best grade, a “B-” for a category related to life, health, and inclusion.

State General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said Tuesday that Rhode Island can do “a whole lot better than 46th.”

“The key is investing in our people & our infrastructure,” Magaziner, a Democrat who is expected to run for governor next year, tweeted. “To rise to the top we must build great public schools, support higher ed and workforce training, & attract 21st century jobs. It can be done.”


Joining Rhode Island at the bottom of the ranking was Mississippi (No. 45), West Virginia (No. 47), Maine (No. 48), Hawaii (No. 49), and Alaska (No. 50).

Massachusetts ranked No. 14 by CNBC overall, but earned an “F” for the cost of doing business and the cost of living.

Of the remaining New England states, Connecticut ranked No. 24, New Hampshire No. 37, and Vermont No. 42.

Virginia was the top-ranked state for doing business, followed by North Carolina, Utah, Texas, and Tennessee.

CNBC’s methodology is designed to adapt to “changing realities,” including the seismic changes of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an article, Cohn explains that the team starts with 10 broad categories of competitiveness, and states can earn a maximum of 2,500 points across those 10 categories. The states with the most points are America’s Top States for Business.

This year, the ranking added a new focus on health care and inclusiveness, which looked at traditional quality of life measures such as crime rates, health care and environmental quality, but also health care resources and the states’ progress in ending the pandemic.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.