10 Best States For Business

This story was originally published by 24/7 Wall St.

While the United States was founded on the principle of equality for all people, the 50 states are decidedly unequal in providing opportunities for business. For companies choosing to locate in the United States, deciding the state in which to base their operations can be very difficult.

To determine America’s best states for business, 24/7 Wall St. identified nearly 50 measures that contribute to the business climate and reviewed them in each of the 50 states. The measures were classified into eight larger categories that independently measured various risks and benefits of doing business in each state. (Click here for a complete methodology.)

The health of a state’s economy, the result of a confluence of factors, is perhaps the most important consideration for businesses choosing a location. The growth of economic output in 2013 in seven of the 10 best states for business was greater than the national GDP growth rate of 1.8%.

Another indication of a healthy economy, the job market, was also strong in the 10 best states for business. All of the 10 states had unemployment rates below the national unemployment rate of 7.4% in 2013. Four of the worst states for business had unemployment rates that exceeded the national rate.

However, while a state’s economy is tied to a host of factors, not all factors benefit businesses in the same way. The business climate in some states was more favorable to companies primarily concerned with minimizing the costs and risks of operating a business. These states, which include North Dakota, Wyoming, and Texas, tended to enjoy ample natural resources, low cost of living, and low regulation.

Some states benefit from a well-educated and highly skilled labor force. They are able to attract businesses that require these skills, such as professional and business services, health and education services, and information. In return, these businesses drive economic growth in these states through technology and innovation. These states include Massachusetts, Virginia, and Minnesota.

While it is emphasized more in some industries than in others, a low cost of doing business is a major reason to choose to operate in a particular state. The average cost of goods and services in six of the best states for business was lower than the national average. This was generally driven by beneficial tax climates, lower expenses from utilities and real estate, and lower average employee compensations.

Although the type and size of operating costs vary considerably between industries, wages are a major expense for many businesses. The average wage and salary in three of the 10 best states for business was roughly inline with the national average of $50,012 in 2013, while in five other states, average wages were below the national figure.

While lower wages lower the cost of doing business, they are also frequently tied to jobs with lower educational attainment. Among the five best states for business with lower than average wages, three had lower educational attainment rates than the national figure. In these states, including North Dakota and Wyoming, the prevalence of industries that require high-skilled labor was also relatively low.

Nevertheless, the percent of STEM jobs in a majority of the best states for business — jobs related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics — was generally high. At least one in five of all jobs in eight of the 10 best states for business were STEM jobs. On the other hand, the percent of jobs in STEM fields was relatively low in the worst states for business.

In addition to a highly-educated labor force, access to capital can also drive innovation in a state. In 2013, 13.26 venture capital deals were made per 1 million Americans. In seven of the worst states for business, there were fewer than three such deals per 1 million residents. In the best states, on the other hand, investments were far more likely. In Massachusetts, there were 57 venture capital deals made per 1 million state residents, by far the highest nationwide.

These are the best (and worst) states for business.

Aaron Schock Repays $40,000 For ‘Downton Abbey’ Office Decor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock repaid $40,000 from his personal checking account for redecorations to his congressional office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” according to financial records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Schock paid $35,000 earlier this month to the owner of the Illinois decorating firm Euro Trash, and $5,000 more on Thursday, the records showed. His official House expense account had previously paid the group for its services.

Schock, a rising star in the Republican Party, has been under scrutiny for using taxpayer money to pay for the redecorating, as well as using his official and campaign funds for flights on donor-owned planes and concert tickets.

The Washington Post was first to describe the office decorations in early February. A watchdog group has since requested a House ethics review of the congressman’s spending.

Schock’s office said Friday his payments made good on an earlier promise to personally shoulder the costs of the office renovation. Schock wrote two checks — for $25,000 on Feb. 4 and $10,000 on Feb. 6 — to Tracy “Annie” Brahler, owner of Euro Trash. He wrote a third check for $5,000 on Thursday.

“Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs,” his office said Friday in a prepared statement. It said that while congressional office costs are usually paid from office expense accounts, “the congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself.”

Schock, 33, is in his fourth term representing the Peoria and Springfield areas.

This week, Schock brought on board a team of campaign finance lawyers and public relations experts to address the controversy about his expenses. His financial charges — including the use of his donors’ private aircraft and concert tickets — were detailed by the AP and other news organizations since news of the decoration work became public.

An AP review this week identified at least a dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on contributors’ planes since mid-2011, tracking Schock’s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman’s pictures uploaded to his Instagram account. The AP extracted hidden location data associated with each image; it then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock’s office and campaign records.

Lawmakers can use office funds for private flights as long as payments cover their share of the costs. But most of the flights Schock covered with office funds occurred before the House changed its rules in January 2013. Those earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using those accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.

Schock previously told the AP he travels frequently throughout his Peoria-area district “to stay connected with my constituents,” and that he takes compliance with congressional funding rules seriously.

Schock also spent thousands more on tickets for concerts, car mileage reimbursements — among the highest in Congress — and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert last June.

His office is still reviewing those transportation and entertainment charges.

The Post first reported that Brahler donated her services as she decorated Schock’s Washington office with red carpet and red walls accented with antique-looking frames and sconces reminiscent of “Downton Abbey.” The popular PBS show depicts the lives of aristocratic families and their servants in 1920s England.

Brahler refunded to the U.S. government $35,000 paid to her from Schock’s congressional office expense account, records show, within days of the Post’s report.

A liberal-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had requested an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside panel that reviews ethics complaints against House members.


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Majority Of Republican Millennials Support Marijuana Legalization

On the heels of recreational marijuana use becoming legal in Washington, D.C., a poll reveals that a majority of Republican millennials favor legalizing marijuana.

The poll, conducted by Pew Research Center, found that 63 percent of Republican millennials — defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — feel that the use of marijuana should be legal. Support among Democratic millennials was even higher, at 77 percent.

Support for Marijuana Largely a Generational Story

While a majority of Democrats in all age groups born after 1945 support marijuana legalization, the only Republican age group to favor legal marijuana was millennials.

Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., all passed ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana last November. The poll results came the same week the measures went into effect in Alaska and Washington. Oregon’s legalization is set to go into effect later this year.

The months since Washington voted to legalize marijuana have been filled with debates and threats as congressional Republicans attempted to thwart the law. Ultimately, the required 30-day period for congressional review expired, and legalization went into effect.

Pew Research Center notes that the contrast between Republican millennials and their elder counterparts is comparable to their positions on same-sex marriage: a March poll showed that 61 percent of Republican millennials favor legalizing gay marriage.

Warren Buffett Says He’s Found a Successor — But Won’t Say Who

Warren Buffett’s successor is in the house. But that’s all the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is saying.

Once again, in this year annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett has not unmasked who the next CEO will be. But he does say as definitively as ever that the person has been picked and he has revealed a little bit more about who he is. (Buffett has already confirmed in the past that the next CEO of Berkshire will be a man.)

That’s more than Buffett has said in the past. But the fact that, once again, the next CEO of Berkshire has not been named may come as a disappointment to some.

This year’s letter is the 50th Buffett has written as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. And, as promised, a section of the letter is titled, “The Next 50 Years at Berkshire.” Some had speculated that meant Buffett would take the opportunity to name his successor. Some have said the fact that he hasn’t has been a drag on the company’s stock in the past, though it’s hard to see evidence of that. Berkshire’s shares were up 27% in 2014, about double the market in general.

In his clearest statement on the subject so far, Buffett writes in this year’s letter, “Both the board and I believe we now have the right person to succeed me as CEO – a successor ready to assume the job the day after I die or step down.”

In previous annual letters, Buffett has said that Berkshire’s board knows who he would pick for CEO should that person be needed immediately. But he has left the door open to changing his mind later on. Buffett now appears appears to have closed that door.

Buffett also says for the first time that the next CEO of Berkshire will be someone who already works at the company. He says that was a requirement of Berkshire directors. In the past, Buffett has said only that his pick for the next CEO of Berkshire is someone the company could put into that position in a flash, not that his chosen successor was already an employee of the company.

Buffett also puts a very loose age range on the next CEO. He writes in this year’s letter that Berkshire’s directors believe the next CEO should be someone relatively young, who can be expected to run the company for at least 10 years. But Buffett says he doesn’t expect the board to pick someone who is likely to retire at 65, giving some wiggle room to how “relatively young” this person may be.

Buffett also says that his successor will be “vigilant and determined” at warding off the “ABCs of business decay, which are arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency.” Buffett says those are the three sins that have brought down companies that once sat “atop huge industries” but through bad behavior fell to depths their CEOs didn’t think possible. It’s noteworthy that Buffett includes General Motors GM -0.67% and IBM IBM 0.67% in that group, two stocks that are currently in Berkshire’s portfolio.

So, there you have it. Berkshire’s next CEO will be a 55-ish man who currently works at Berkshire and is not prone to mucking up what Buffett has built over the past 50 years. If you fit that description, congrats!

In the past, Berkshire watchers have kept a careful watch on which top lieutenants gets the most mentions in Buffett’s annual letter. This year, the clear winner is Ajit Jain, who runs Berkshire Hathaway’s largest insurance division. “[Jain’s] mind, moreover, is an idea factory,” Buffett writes in the letter. But at 63, Jain may be a little too old for the job, if Buffett sticks to his prescribed age range.

Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, Buffett’s back up investment managers, get a mention in the letter and praise for their investing abilities. And Buffett says he has handed over a bit more control to them. Buffett says both managers have been given one of Berkshire’s smaller companies to look after and both are taking on the title of chairman of those firms. But, unlike in previous years, Buffett says nothing about the performance of Combs and Weschler’s investments in 2014. Fortune calculated that both lagged the market for the first time since joining Berkshire.

Buffett makes no mention in this year’s letter of Matt Rose, the chairman of BNSF, who Buffett has praised in previous letters and some have speculated is a front runner for the CEO job. Perhaps that’s ecause BNSF had a disappointing 2014, or perhaps Rose, 55, is out of the running. Only Buffett, and Berkshire’s board, knows.

This article was originally published on Fortune.com

Russian opposition mourns murdered leader Nemtsov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Thousands of stunned Russians laid flowers and lit candles on Saturday on the bridge where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead near the Kremlin, a murder that showed the risks of speaking out against President Vladimir Putin.

6 Ways to Own Going Back to Work After an Absence

Once upon a time, you decided to take a few months away from your career to spend time with your new baby, or tend to a sick relative, or start your own business. Perhaps those months turned into years and you now find yourself wanting to return to the workforce, armed only with a dusty resume and a dated power suit. Don’t despair. By following the six steps below, you can take control of the back-to-work process and will restart your career in no time.

  1. Talk to someone in the field. If you’ve been away from the work world for more than a year, things have probably changed. It’s smart to talk to an industry insider before you officially kick off your job search. See if you can have coffee with a former colleague who has remained in your field. Or get in touch with your alumni association or an industry group and see if they can connect you with someone who can give you the inside edge. Ask them what are the key issues facing people in your industry. Are they using new software? Have any regulations changed? This information will help you prepare for your job search and eliminate surprises along the way.
  2. Upgrade your technical skills. Many skills needed to succeed on the job do not change: if you left your career as an excellent communicator, creative thinker and relationship manager, you still have those skills. Technical skills are more subject to change and depending on the type of job you are seeking, you may need to retrain. The time to upgrade your skills is before you apply for a job. If you can show that you’ve kept pace with changes to your industry, a prospective company is much more likely to consider you for the role.
  3. Update your resume and online profile. Things may have changed since you last updated your CV so do some research into current resume writing techniques. Ask a recruiter friend if she will review your resume over coffee or ask a search firm that recruits in your field for help (it’s to their advantage for your resume to look great so they can present you as a candidate in the future.) Make sure that you have a good profile on LinkedIn and ensure you look professional on social media. Consider setting up a Twitter profile and start to follow key influencers in your industry. Pick a professional sounding email address (catandcookielover@webhost.com might not be the best choice unless you are interviewing in a very specific field.) Recruiters routinely research candidates online, so you want to have a presence other than an active “I heart Grumpy Cat” Pinterest page.
  4. Strut your strengths. Repeat after me: “I do not need to apologize for the gap in my resume.” Unless you have spent your last decade as part of the Real Housewives franchise, you will have developed some transferable skills during your time away from your career. Perhaps you did the books for a family business and deepened your knowledge of finance, accounting, and taxes. Perhaps you ran a committee at school or served on a not-for-profit board and fine-tuned your strategic planning and people management skills. Perhaps you advocated for your special needs child or stick-handled your divorce and learned invaluable research and negotiation skills. No matter what you did, it’s up to you — not the recruiter — to make the connection between the skills you developed and the skills they need. Talk about the transferable skills and don’t downplay them simply because you donated your time.
  5. Emphasize your maturity. You are no longer 20 years old. That’s a huge advantage. At work and in your life you’ve seen a thing or two and that experience is invaluable to a future employer. Unless you are applying to be a Hollywood ingénue, don’t hide your age or the fact that you’ve raised a family. Your understanding of people, your ability to motivate others, and your ability to communicate will be superior to some young whippersnapper out of school. As long as you have up-to-date technical skills, you will have a distinct advantage over younger candidates competing for the role. You put in those years: own them.
  6. Refuse to be penalized for leaving the workforce. There are unscrupulous companies out there who will tell you that you must take a giant career step back simply because you’ve been out of the workforce for a couple of years. Unless you are completely changing careers, you should be looking at jobs that are at a similar level to the one you held when you left your career (this in itself can be frustrating since if you return to the same company, you might be reporting to someone you once trained!) Some companies will tell you that you should take something more junior and promise to promote you quickly once you show them what you can do. The reality it, it’s almost always easier to negotiate title and salary before you accept a job. Think of job hunting like dating: if a company isn’t generous in the courtship phase, they aren’t going to be more generous in the marriage.

Returning to work can feel intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Do your homework, be prepared, sell your strengths, and stop apologizing. They need you — skilled, wise woman — as much as you need them. Now go get that job!


U.S.-led coalition launches air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S.-led coalition launched 11 air strikes in Iraq and nine in Syria since early Friday against Islamic State militants, the Combined Joint Task Force said.