2nd Annual “Doing Business” Report Ranks North American Cities by Ease of Doing Business

The Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University has released the second edition of its signature Doing Business North America report, which provides objective measures of business regulations across 130 cities in 92 states, provinces and districts in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Comprised of over 12,000 datapoints, it uses 111 variables to create 28 data indicators spread over six categories to score and rank cities in regard to how easy it is to set up, operate, and shut down a business.

The 2020 report expands on the first edition, with 15 new cities, 48 additional variables, and expanding and renaming the “Registering Property” category to “Land and Space Use”, which now includes the first-of-its kind application of the well-known Wharton Residential Land Use Regulation Index methodology on residential property and applying it to commercial property.

Modeled upon the World Bank’s Doing Business report, the Doing Business North America report measures the regulations that apply to domestic small and medium-size companies throughout their lifecycle. The report compiles and analyses city-specific data, offering a comprehensive look at a particular jurisdiction’s business environment, including regulations having to do with starting a business, employing workers, acquiring electricity, paying taxes, registered property, and resolving insolvency.

By comparing business environments across North America, the report offers measurable benchmarks for reform that encourage states and provinces to pursue regulatory frameworks that ease the cost of doing business.

“The Doing Business North America report offers objective data on the scale and scope of policies and regulations that influence the creation and growth of small and medium sized businesses,” said Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow and project director of the Doing Business North America report at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. “This year we’ve also collected original and important new metrics on local commercial zoning regulations,” said Slivinski. “We expect that many city policymakers and citizens will be interested in how their town ranks relative to their competitor cities,” said Slivinski.

The Doing Business North America research team was led by Slivinski, with support from undergraduate students from the W. P. Carey School of Business, The College, School of Sustainability, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

“We’re pleased to release the 2nd edition of the well-received Doing Business North America report,” said Dr. Ross Emmett, Center Director and Professor of Economic Thought at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “Doing Business North America is predicated on the idea that a well-functioning economy requires good rules. The ease of doing business in a location is higher when the rules are clear and the steps involved are few. A study like this is useful for policy research in both the academic and the policy-maker communities,” said Emmett.

The report findings include:

  • Raleigh, North Carolina accumulated the highest Ease of Doing Business Score.
  • In the expanded category of “Land and Space Use,” which includes measuring zoning restrictions on commercial property, Arlington, Virginia takes the top spot, followed by San Francisco.
  • For the second year in a row, the Canadian cities of Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg and Edmonton, lead the “Starting a Business” category, which measures the number of legal procedures required to start a business and the costs associated with those procedures.

“This report is another example of how we at ASU innovate year after year,” said Paul Carrese, school director, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University. “By expanding the number of cities included in the report and incorporating commercial zoning regulations, we’re setting ourselves apart from other city ranking projects. The key to future economic growth is the success of small and medium-sized businesses and this report equips policymakers with the necessary tools to help them make more informed decisions. While many small businesses are struggling right now, this report is extremely important and timely to equip local governments with data that shows how they can either help or hinder those businesses as the economy continues to recover.”

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