We won! We won! Damnation! West Virginia is number one for the third year in a row!
Unfortunately, what we won is a badge of dishonor.
For three years now, West Virginia has earned the distinction of having the most anti-business courts in the nation, according to an annual Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which owns this newspaper.
This is a negative achievement, not a positive one. We're not the best. We're the worst. We're not really Number One. We're Number 50 out of 50!
Prior to 2006, Mississippi exceeded our shame and we were the second worst state in the nation. So, we're making negative progress in the wrong direction.
What does it means to have the most anti-business courts in the country?
More than two thirds of the top corporate lawyers and executives surveyed affirm that a state's legal environment is a key factor when companies decide where to locate or expand operations. In other words, those companies won't be looking at West Virginia.
For the West Virginia power elite, this may not be much of a concern. In fact, they even may prefer to keep out the competition. But, for the average West Virginian, it means diminished prospects: fewer jobs to choose from, less opportunity for advancement, a life lived less fully than it should have been.
The average West Virginian will find nothing to celebrate in our state's pathetic last-place ranking. He won't find any gallows humor in it either, especially in today's ceaseless recession.
Like the "judicial hellhole" status with which the state habitually is saddled, the distinction of having the most anti-business courts in the nation reflects a long-standing, entrenched reality about our state that must be acknowledged and addressed if our people are ever to prosper.
For now, it is too much to hope that we'll ever be the best state for business, but we don't have to be the worst. Let's at least start moving in the right direction.