The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation says North Dakota is the state most likely to thrive in the rapidly evolving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused economy.

The Foundation’s sixth annual Enterprising States: States Innovate study ranks the top 10 states in the categories of economic performance; transportation and trade; innovation and entrepreneurship; business climate; talent pipeline; and high-tech performance. The report findings confirm that the future of our states—and their ability to meet major economic, social and environmental challenges — rests largely on how they use and take advantage of technology.

Shifting the spotlight

“Enterprising States reveals that states invested in the STEM economy are likeliest to thrive, and we are seeing a migration of STEM opportunities to Middle America,” said Carolyn Cawley, managing director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “Technology is reshaping established fields of medicine, manufacturing, energy and business services, and shifting the spotlight from Silicon Valley to other corridors of homegrown innovation.”

North Dakota is at the top of the study’s overall economic performance ratings, followed by Texas. Utah ranked the most consistently across all identified policy areas. It was the only state to rank in the top 10 in five of the six major lists.

Housing costs count

The study finds high housing costs are driving the migration of skilled tech talent from coastal regions to more affordable, family-friendly locations such as Utah, Colorado, Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina—all states landing in the top 10 for high-tech performance. States with a strong legacy of tech talent—such as engineers in the Great Lakes region—are well positioned to benefit from the tech evolution of existing major industries.

Talent will be a critical driver of the high-tech economy, which places pressure on states to invest in a highly skilled workforce in order to close the skills gap. The top 10 states for talent pipeline span the country, including many in the Great Plains, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the Great Lakes; Maryland, Virginia, and Massachusetts on the Atlantic, Colorado in the west; and Florida.

The growing self-employed and telework workforce is another key driver of this geographic trend, creating opportunities for states to foster business- and knowledge-friendly climates to attract the most talented STEM innovators.

Infographics for top performing states available here.