Ohio is home to an estimated 255,800 women-owned firms that boast 289,400 employees and about $42.55 million in sales—an increase of nearly 25 percent since 1997. That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, those numbers rank Ohio 47th among the 50 states based on growth in the number of women-owned firms and 46th in growth of firm revenue, according to the new State of Women-Owned Businesses Report from American Express OPEN.

“At least you beat Iowa,” consoles Julie Weeks, research advisor for American Express OPEN.

In the Midwest, “large manufacturing firms are leaving, small businesses are still continuing to start but are not finding fertile soil in terms of overall economic climate and disposable income for potential customers,” Weeks says.

The top states for growing female firms are in the South and West, which have seen greater population growth, and in the Washington, D.C. region, which has seen greater economic stability because of federal government spending. Women-owned businesses in the Rust Belt already have the cards stacked against them, Weeks says.

Looking only at states with poor overall business climates, Weeks points to three factors that may dictate friendliness to women-owned firms:

Existence of state-level policies to help women firms and a state ombudsman focusing on women-owned business Active and visible presence of women’s business organizations and visible women business owners Women’s business centers targeting startup and growth assistance

“The states that might not have any of those are the states that are ranking lower than other states,” Weeks says.

Many small businesses—regardless of whether they’re owned by women or men—need a helping hand to survive. “Consistently, where firms falter in their growth pace is at the five- to nine-employee level and the $250,000 to $499,999 revenue level. It seems to be the area where small firms are stumbling a bit as they grow, which indicates where there needs to be assistance,” Weeks says.

Reprinted from the May 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.