Massachusetts Leads High Tech States; Mississippi Trails

By: - August 3, 1999 12:00 am

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts, not California or Washington, leads the nation in adapting to and taking advantage of the national transition to a high-tech “new economy,” according to a study by the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank associated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

“The State New Economy Index” takes into account 17 economic indicators ranging from the number of high-tech jobs as a percentage of the workforce to the number of .com addresses registered per state.

The study ranked Mississippi last overall.

It says the combination of a bounty of high-tech jobs, excellent universities and a prominent role in the global economy propelled Massachusetts to the top spot.

The top ten states: Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Washington, Connecticut, Utah, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware and Arizona.

The bottom ten states: Wyoming, Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“The New Economy is a knowledge and idea-based economy where the keys to wealth and job creation are the extent to which ideas, innovation, and technology are embedded in the state’s economy,” the study said.

The study is the first attempt to look at how globalization, the Net and information technology are affecting economic activity on a state by state basis, report co-author Robert Atkinson said.

In addition to ranking the states, the study offered suggestions on improving states’ standing in the high-tech economy.

“In the New Economy, states need to shift their focus from job creation to income growth and expanded economic opportunity,” said report co-author Randolph H. Court.

To do this, he said, states should focus on technology in public education, support for R&D, availability of job-specific skills training, good quality of life, and quality government, rather than simply providing corporate tax subsidies and incentives.

The states best prepared for the high-tech economy have more in common than a large number of high profile, high-tech firms, according to the study.

These states also tend to have highly educated workforces, internationally-oriented manufacturers, solid “infrastructures for innovation,” and dynamic business environments creating large numbers of jobs in fast-growing companies.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Colorado ranked first in workforce education, a weighted measure based on the number and proportion of state workers with advanced degrees, bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, or any college course work.
  • Nevada ranked first in “gazelle” jobs, which the study defines as jobs in companies with annual sales revenue that has grown 20 percent or more for four straight years.
  • Surprisingly, New Mexico ranked first in the value of initial public stock offerings of companies as a share of gross state product.
  • Alaska ranked first in both education technology and percentage of adults with Internet access at 52 percent. Oklahoma ranked last in education technology; Mississippi, with only 17 percent of adults having Internet access, brought up the rear in that category.
  • Washington was tops in digital government, while Illinois ranked last. The measure took into account utilization of digital technologies in offering public services and the ability of information technology to spur economic growth.

The study breaks down the 17 ranking economic factors into 5 categories: knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, the digital economy, and innovation capacity.

Regionally, it found the strongest states in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Pacific states: 17 of the top 20 states in the Index are in these four regions. In contrast, 17 of the bottom 20 states are in the Midwest, Great Plains, and the South.

The study’s authors find this result unsurprising, as the Midwest, Plains and the South have economies more firmly entrenched in agriculture and non-technical enterprises.

The study can be found online at:

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