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MOUNTAIN STATES ACE ECONOMIC TEST

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Mountain West states got the highest grades in a private organization's newest "report card" on economic performance, business vitality and development capacity.

One of the states, Colorado, got straight A's and remained at the head of the class for the third straight year in the Corporation for Enterprise Development's ninth annual "Development Report Card for the States."Underscoring the economic strength of the mountain region last year was the appearance of Idaho and Montana, in addition to Colorado, on the corporation's honor roll. Minnesota and Oregon also made the honors list.

The Mountain West, which also includes Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, has reversed its standing at the beginning of the 1990s, according to the nonprofit corporation, which released its report Wednesday. The organization is funded by businesses, labor unions and private foundations.

"The region has the best physical infrastructure, second-best human resources and second-best technological base - critical ingredients for future growth," said Brian Dabson, the corporation president.

"This region is an ideal example of the importance of investing in resources - excellent human resources, broad-based and equitable tax and fiscal systems and an improved physical infrastructure have given the region the tools to create a host of economic opportunities."

Also earning high grades in the latest report card were Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming, which were given honorable mentions for their economic performances.

States must achieve all A's and B's to make the honor roll. To earn honorable mentions, states much win two honor grades and a C.

West Virginia was at the bottom of the class last year for the second straight year. It was given F's in economic performance and development capacity and a D in business vitality, slightly better than last year's F.

Other states with two F's were Arkansas, which flunked business vitality and development capacity but earned a C in economic performance; Louisiana, with F's in economic performance and develop-ment capacity and a C in business vitality; and Oklahoma, which got F's in economic performance and development capacity and a B in business vitality.

Aside from the Mountain West, here are summaries of the corporation's analyses of other regions, which it did not rank:

- NORTHEAST: The region is not experiencing the economic recovery of other areas and may suffer from a lack of infrastructure investment caused by the weak economy. Still, it remains one of the strongest regions in develop-ment capacity and high-technology employment.

- MIDWEST: This region has retained the gains in all three indexes last year when the corporation described it as the "Comeback Kid." The region must revive a stagnant entrepreneurial sector in much the same way it has revitalized its manufacturing sector.

- THE PLAINS: The area's economies generally are dominated by cycles of boom and bust in agriculture, energy and real estate. Although it improved its infrastructure recently, it still needs to strengthen its human, technology and financial resources.

- THE SOUTH: The region has improved its development capacity and tax and fiscal systems, which are needed for future growth. But it still needs to improve job quality, including health coverage and wages.

- THE PACIFIC: These states have strong development capacity and unsurpassed human resources, but the similarities end there. Alaska and Hawaii are heavily dependent on their natural resources, while Oregon and Washington are affected by certain industrialized sectors. California, on the other hand, is diversified and self-contained economically - "almost a nation unto itself."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Best in West: how they rank

State Per* Vit* Cap*

Ariz. C C B

Colo. A A A

Idaho A A B

Mont. B B B

Nev. B A D

N.M. D C D

Utah A C A

Wyo. B A C

*Per (economic performance) measures the economic benefits and opportunities the state's economy is pro-viding its populace.

*Vit (business vitality) assesses the vitality and dynamism of the state's business sector.

*Cap (development capacity) measures the state's capacity for future growth and recovery from economic adversity.