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Ranks Worth Winning

New business climate rankings from CNBC have drawn headlines in Oklahoma news outlets in recent days, but how much do these rankings really tell us about where Oklahoma stands, and more importantly, where we need to go?

Beyond the headlines, most national rankings of business climate and economic competitiveness (CNBC’s included) are of limited usefulness for state-level policymakers because they often focus on features that states either cannot do anything about or that are not really correlated to economic growth and prosperity. This is not to say that data-driven analysis of Oklahoma’s competitive rankings is unimportant. Quite the opposite. Fundamentally, Oklahoma’s future growth and prosperity will be dictated by how well we compete with other states. Competitions are, by their very nature, all about rankings. We want and need to be at the top of the rankings, but we need to make sure our efforts are aimed at the right rankings.

This is precisely the reason we created The Oklahoma Scorecard.

By measuring Oklahoma’s position on the things that truly matter to economic growth and prosperity, The Scorecard is aimed directly at improving the things that will move the needle for our state’s economy. Moreover, by isolating the economic variables that are indicative of public policy choices, The Scorecard pinpoints the areas Oklahoma policymakers need to prioritize—the things they can do something about.

To be sure, The Scorecard does not let state leaders off the hook. In many ways, we are tougher graders than the folks who do the national rankings. In many categories, Oklahoma has a lot of work to do. But we will not reach our full economic potential as a state by turning a blind eye to areas in need of improvement. Problems can only be fixed after clear-eyed acknowledgment that they are problems.

State rankings such as CNBC's should not be overlooked if we want to ensure that we are constantly striving to make Oklahoma the nation's best state for business, but they are only part of the story. The Oklahoma Scorecard helps us focus on the things that matter.

Click here to hear Ben Lepak, SCRF executive director, discuss the process of creating The Scorecard as well as his insight into how Oklahoma can continue to improve and thrive on a competitive level.


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