Arkansas ranks 48th in Milken Institute benchmark for tech-focused economies

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 454 views 

Arkansas again ranked near the bottom in the Milken Institute’s 2018 State Technology and Science Index, a biennial assessment of states’ capabilities and competitiveness in a tech-focused economy.

Massachusetts retained its No. 1 ranking for the widely-held benchmark for policymakers to evaluate their state’s capabilities and formulate strategies for improving STEM education, attracting businesses, and creating jobs in the tech sector.

Indices considered in the report include the number of patents issued and doctoral degrees granted in each state. Massachusetts had an overall composite score of 86.25 with top rankings in the categories of human capital investment, risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure, and research and development input. The East Coast state also scored among the top three in technology concentration and dynamism, and tech- and science-focused workforce.

By comparison, Arkansas had a composite score of 23.32 with bottom five rankings in all categories. In 2004 and 2014, Arkansas ranked 45th and 49th out of all 50 states. West Virginia and Mississippi, at rankings of 49th and 50th, were the only states with lower overall scores at 19.96 and 19.78, respectively.

The top four states were unchanged from the 2016 index. Colorado ranked No. 2, followed by No. 3 Maryland and No. 4 California. Fifth-place Utah, the only new member of the top-5, rose to fifth from eighth on the strength of rapid employment growth in technology and science.

“The success stories of states profiled in this year’s index reflect sustained efforts to not only build but to maintain their ecosystem,” said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics. “Making the changes that are necessary to perform well on the State Technology and Science Index can contribute to stronger long-term economic performance.”

Massachusetts benefitted from the presence of major research universities, the availability of venture capital, entrepreneurial expertise, and a tech-oriented workforce, according to the report. Massachusetts continues to strengthen its position in tech and science by increasing public funding of neuroscience research, cybersecurity innovation, and startup development.

Utah’s move to fifth was driven by tech-sector employment growth – the fastest in the nation – averaging 4.3% annually. The state also had the most university graduates with degrees in science and engineering – 15.4 per 1,000 students. Utah stood out for the success of its universities in spinning research into commercial ventures.

Drawing on this data, the report recommends steps policymakers can take to improve their state’s competitiveness:

  • Increase scholarships and other financial aid to lower the cost of higher education for in-state students who plan STEM careers.
  • Better align STEM curricula to make it easier for students to transfer credits from lower-cost two-year colleges to four-year institutions.
  • Encourage partnerships between higher-education institutions and private companies to provide students with work experience to improve workforce readiness and job placement.
  • Make employee non-compete laws less restrictive to encourage a freer exchange of ideas and talent among tech companies.

The index draws on data from government and private sources dating from 2015 to 2017, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, the American Community Survey, and Moody’s Analytics.

To view the Milken Institute biennial report, click here.

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