I had an opportunity recently to attend the grand opening of Solar Atmospheres of Western Pennsylvania in Hermitage, located between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Ohio. Why Hermitage? Reasons include location (to serve companies in Western Pa. and Ohio), knowledgeable workforce, available power supply and funding assistance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. According to Solar's CEO Bill Jones, the plant benefited from the Commonwealth's aid programs through a loan from the Economic Development Authority for the facility and a bond from Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) for the plant's new furnaces.

A lot of factors go into making a decision of where to start up, expand or move a business, some of which just don't match up to a particular location, but every state is looking to build its economic base. Like Pennsylvania, other states are pitching benefits of putting stakes in their ground on respective web sites. From the north, south, east and west, here are a few examples.

Minnesota Dept. of Trade and Economic Development offers alternatives to acquire capital for starting up, expanding or relocating in the state, and assists businesses on financial programs, supply sources, business planning, trade opportunities, strategic partners and venture partners. Specialists provide information on available markets, technologies, buildings and sites, transportation and other Minnesota advantages. These include a global economy and committed workforce-low absenteeism and declining rates of occupational injuries make a productive workforce; Minneapolis/St. Paul is a top U.S. market and important business hub; the state ranks as a top location for exporting companies. Minn. is growing jobs 33% faster than the rest of the U.S.; its labor force participation is 75+% (2nd highest in nation); its female labor force participation rate is 2nd highest in nation; Minn. offers the great outdoors (66 state parks and 57 state forests), and it was ranked the "Most Livable State" from 1997-2000 by an independent private research publishing company based on 43 factors including home ownership rate, job growth, percent of persons who are high-school graduates, electricity prices and per-capita income.

Texas Department of Economic Development markets Texas as the leading state for business expansion. Financial assistance programs include Capital Access Fund (an alternative means for hard-to-get financing), the Linked Deposit Program (financing opportunities for small or historically underutilized businesses in distressed areas) and the Industrial Revenue Bond Program (property financing for industrial projects).

Reasons why Texans think the Lone Star State has advantages as a business locations include a civilian labor force of 10.3 million; more new manufacturing jobs added since 1990 than any other state; convenient access to expanding markets in Mexico and South America; 2nd leading exporter; right-to-work state (low unionization of manufacturing workforce); no personal income tax; one of the lowest business taxes as a % of total state revenue among 15 most populous states; average manufacturing wage 17% lower than U.S. avg.; one of the lowest total energy costs in nation; 90% of state in central time zone (easier to conduct nationwide and international business); and leader in high-tech, R&D and emerging industries.

Pennsylvania's friction-free state government is committed to developing tools to foster new opportunities and energize traditional industries. Custom-made financing tools are offered through Pennsylvania Technology Investment Authority (PITA), which provides funds for capital investments in knowledge-based companies. The state has some of the largest private venture firms and has an existing critical mass (infrastructure, technology and workforce) in place to meet the needs of high-tech industries; over 10,000 new businesses have started in Pa. since 1998. Private industry and universities are creating a skilled technology-savvy workforce including the largest pool of computer scientists and engineers in U.S. Also, Pa. has a low personal income tax rate, and offers world-class entertainment and outdoor activities (e.g., 116 state parks).

California Technology, Trade & Commerce Agency (CTCCA) lists the "Top Ten Reasons for Doing Business in California." For example, California is an easy place to go global with your goods; it has the 7th largest economy in the world; it spends $30 billion annually on R&D, it ranks #1 in university and industrial R&D spending, and 34% of all venture capital in the U.S. is invested in California; it claims the nation's most talented labor force (15+ million-25% of whom are college graduates); Team California (from the governor to CTTCA to local economic-development professionals) works with businesses by forming project-specific "Red Teams" to tackle problems such as permit approvals and red tape; California cut bank and corporation taxes by 5% in 1996, which will save companies more than $250 million/year in the future, and expanded its R&D tax credit from 8-11% to 12-14% for university-conducted R&D; Southern California averages about 300 sunny days a year and it has a huge tourism business, which can have positive effects on your business.

Get on the Internet to see what other states have to offer.