When you look into a mirror, what image do you see? Do you see yourself the way you really are, or do you see yourself the way you'd like to be? Or can you see both images more or less simultaneously, comparing and contrasting them and charting your progress (or lack of progress) between reality and ideal?

Sometimes it's difficult to keep the two images distinct. We may look into a mirror and see ourselves the way we used to be, when we were younger, slimmer with a full head of lustrous hair. We may not notice the toll that life has taken on us –- the extra lines, the added pounds, the tinges of gray.

Like individuals, states have images, too -– reflections of what they are and what they could be.

To help us see those images, ChiefExecutive.net publishes an annual survey of more than 500 of the nation's top CEOs, rating the business environment of each state on a variety of factors including taxation, regulation, and workforce quality.

According to the website's editors, "states with punitive tax and regulatory regimes are punished with lower rankings, and this can offset even positive scores on quality of living environment. While state incentives are always welcome," they affirm, "what CEOs often seek are areas with consistent policies and regulations that allow them to plan, as well as intangible factors such as a state's overall attitude toward business and the work ethic of its population."

For many years now, Texas has been identified as the state with the best business environment, California as the worst. West Virginia has long been in the hostile half, but is rapidly approaching rock bottom, going from 34th best in 2009 to 42nd in 2010. Only eight states are now considered worse than us.

We don't like what we see in the mirror. It's obvious that some drastic changes need to be made.

Where is the leadership? Where are the plans? Who among us are willing to be the voices of progress and change?

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