Wash. Business Costs Rising; Workers’ Comp Problems Among Items Singled Out

The WashACE annual report that lists key indicators of the state’s business climate in relation to other states reportedly shows that, despite signs of the slowly recovering state economy, Washington has fallen in several areas critical to keeping local business competitive.

Produced by the Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy (WashACE), the 2005 Competitiveness Redbook reports data gathered on factors that contribute to economic growth, employment and quality of life in Washington.

To rank Washington’s appeal as a place to do business, the report notes such categories as tax foundation estimates, R D per capita, airport on-time performance and percentage of roads in need of repair.

According to the Redbook report, Washington is the top exporting state on a per-capita basis in the nation, remains in the top five in venture capital investments, and is in the top 15 in net jobs added — all signs that the state economy is on the mend. Other advantages include a well-educated population, and comparatively moderate and uniform property taxes.

But other factors are less encouraging, including the costs related to workers’ compensation coverage.

In the category of the cost of doing business – where Hawaii is noted as the most expensive state (with a mean index of 134) – Washington ranks eighth with a mean index of 107.9, just behind such states as California, Massachusetts and New York.

Washington leads the nation in unemployment insurance taxes at a $695 average cost per employee, and is ranked sixth in unemployment insurance benefits. It ranks 40th in the annual average investment per employee in manufacturing.

Washington also has the nation’s highest minimum wages, and its workers’ comp costs continue to move up sharply reportedly because of increased time-loss benefits caused by recent Supreme Court decisions, and actions taken by the legislature in 1993.