Archive for the ‘Best States for Business’ category

The Big Mystery: Will a Coastal or Interior City Win Amazon’s HQ2 Project

October 19, 2017

Today is deadline day at Amazon for cities and states to file their proposals to become home to the company’s second headquarters, commonly referred to as HQ2.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked what decision Amazon will make. Well, Amazon isn’t my client so how would I know? Even if they were, under non-disclosure rules I wouldn’t breath a word about the company’s project.

A little speculation can’t hurt, so here goes …

I think Amazon will seriously consider metropolitan areas located in the nation’s interior. While the smaller ones won’t make it simply because the workforce isn’t there, others have characteristics that are superior – often far superior – to coastal areas.

Many people think the winning bid will be the one that offers the highest value in economic incentives, but that isn’t always the case. It’s true that incentives can be a significant factor, but not necessarily a decisive one.

At times, a community offering the most attractive incentives can lose if it fails to meet certain parameters. For example, putting a warehouse located a half-mile from an Interstate highway will beat out a community that is situated 25 miles from an Interstate.

Countless examples like that exist.

So incentives are only part of the puzzle. Selecting the optimum location is a balancing act that weighs many important factors, such as the extent of workers in the area with appropriate talents, availability of shovel-ready land on which to build, tax rates and how they are applied, and laws that regulate labor factors such as overtime — the list is a lot longer than this.

Also important are quality-of-life factors for employees, such as the cost of living (especially housing costs), quality of the local school system, traffic congestion during peak commuting times, recreational and cultural opportunities, taxes and crime rates.

I predict that one state Amazon won’t put its HQ2 is California because of the state’s harsh business and legal environment.

Just one example: Employers can be fined or sued for a mistake on a paycheck stub (not the check, just the stub). Challenges facing workers include super-expensive housing, the highest taxes in the nation and long commuting times caused in part by highway improvements that have long been neglected.

Two days ago the Tax Foundation released its 2018 State Business Tax Climate, which showed California ranking as the 48th worst state beating out only New York and New Jersey.

Next year the tax picture may worsen as California legislators again try to revise Proposition 13 to put business and residential properties into two groups – and then place still-higher taxes on all types of office, industrial and commercial property.

Legislators are motivated by plans to once again increase state spending despite needing reserve funds to pay down state and local debt that now exceeds $1.3 trillion.

So it’s little wonder that the California Business and Industrial Alliance in Sunland has placed a full-page ad in the Seattle area to warn Amazon away from locating its HQ2 in the state. According to the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, “The headline warns the Seattle online retailer that while the weather is nice in California, the business climate is not.”

All of that represents the formula for California being scratched off the list, especially because of this Amazon specification: “A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure will be high-priority considerations for the Project.”

Since Illinois, New York and New Jersey mimic California’s awful public policies, I won’t be surprised if Chicago, New York City and Newark also disappear as candidates.

Finally, I wish I could be in Amazon’s office as each proposal was unveiled. I know this is serious business, but I also think it would be fascinating, exciting and fun, too.

Note: Three excellent stories appeared today regarding the project:

CNBC’s – Bids for Amazon’s second headquarters are due Thursday — here are the cities in the running – This story states: “Although we don’t know exactly which cities have officially submitted their proposals so far, there are more than 100 cities and counties that have expressed interest in placing a bid, according to previous reports. There could be more, as some cities are keeping their bids secret, at least through Thursday, for competitive reasons.”

Wall Street Journal – As Cities Woo Amazon to Build Second Headquarters, Incentives Are Key

PoliticoThis Is What Really Happens When Amazon Comes to Your Town.

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s perennially difficult business environment. Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow.

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Uber Regulations Mean San Francisco Loses While Phoenix and Pittsburgh Win

December 23, 2016

Any business person who has dealt with California’s frustrating laws, regulations and bureaucrats was nonetheless surprised to see a story with the headline, “Uber Ships Self-Driving Cars to Arizona After California Ban.”

uber-cars-on-flatbed-truckReally? A state ban on Uber? The poster child of the billion-dollar-plus startup, tech-guru, market-disruptor club? Why would Sacramento give Uber, of all people, a bad time?

Reuters said Uber Technologies Inc. pulled its fleet of self-driving cars from the streets of San Francisco and sent them to Arizona’s friendlier territory:

The California Department of Motor Vehicles banned Uber’s self-driving cars from San Francisco just days after they first deployed. In response, Uber picked up and moved out. “Our cars departed for Arizona this morning by truck, Uber said… . We’ll be expanding our self-driving pilot there in the next few weeks, and we’re excited to have the support of Governor Ducey.”

Gov. Doug Ducey wooed Uber on social media the evening when the ride-hailing company pulled its self-driving test from San Francisco. “California may not want you; but AZ does!” he wrote on Twitter. The next morning, Uber’s fleet was headed his state’s way.

California moved to revoke registrations for Uber’s automobiles, but Uber said its vehicles require oversight by a human driver and shouldn’t qualify under California’s autonomous-driving rules. Nonetheless, the state Attorney General and soon-to-be Senator, Kamala Harris (loyal to unions and hostile to business interests), threatened legal action if the company continued operating automobiles without a permit.

Uber in Arizona

Gov. Ducey’s full statement reads:

Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads. While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses. In 2015, I signed an executive order supporting the testing and operation of self-driving cars in Arizona with an emphasis on innovation, economic growth, and most importantly, public safety. This is about economic development, but it’s also about changing the way we live and work. Arizona is proud to be open for business. California may not want you, but we do.

Anthony Levandowski, the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, argued that because the company’s self-driving system is an early prototype and requires test drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. It’s no different from driver-assist systems already on the market — and those are exempt from the requirement for a California permit.

Levandowski said that it isn’t clear why the DMV is requiring a permit now when they’ve known that Ubers have been on the streets of San Francisco over a month and have been operating safely for months in Pittsburgh, “where policymakers and regulators are supportive of our efforts.”

Last year, Uber opened its Center for Excellence in Phoenix, where it serves U.S. customers and Uber users worldwide. Now, it seems that more development work will occur in Phoenix. That’s what happens when a state is friendly to business interests.

Uber in Pittsburgh

Uber has been successfully testing autonomous-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh for some time. An extensive Wall Street Journal story in September — Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Debut in Pittsburgh — described how Uber is turning the city into an “experimental lab” where it will have as many as 100 specially equipped Volvo XC90s operating. Also, reported the WSJ, the city has its quirks — like the “Pittsburgh left turn” — which makes it a great location for testing autonomous vehicles.

It is customary for the first driver at a stoplight who is signaling a left turn to have priority over oncoming traffic when the light turns green. People in the oncoming lanes generally allow that leftward dash and are puzzled or even angry if it doesn’t occur. Uber has programmed its cars to allow other cars to make the ‘Pittsburgh left’ but not to make it themselves. The city is also notoriously difficult to drive through with steep hills and three rivers that make streets twist and turn unpredictably… . “If you can drive successfully in Pittsburgh, you’re pretty much done,” said Ragunathan Rajkumar, a professor at [Carnegie Mellon University] who specializes in autonomous vehicles.

Last year Uber opened an Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh and this year is developing its second research facility there as part of a massive brownfield redevelopment site. Uber says it likes Pittsburgh’s “world-class research universities and engineers and a thriving technology community.”

Uber entered into a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to help create its new technology center and also to rely on the university’s National Robotics Engineering Center to do R&D in mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology. Safety is one of Uber’s major concerns.

Uber also selected Pittsburgh because of the clustering of robotics companies such as Carnegie Robotics and RedZone Robotics.

Although California prides itself on the pool of technical talent found in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Uber has found justification to praise Phoenix and Pittsburgh for the the talent available from local universities and the community support of technology and innovation.

Uber’s experience in San Francisco shows that venture capitalists, Ph.Ds in robotics and software engineers are no match for an all-knowing California bureaucracy.

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One focus of this blog has been to address California’s difficult business environment.

Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

 

Two Reporters Walked Into a Bar ….

August 1, 2016

Well, not really. Two reporters moved from California to Texas and last week both of them wrote stories about companies moving to the Lone Star State.

Dallas Morning NewsIn the Dallas Morning News, Jill Cowan wrote a piece about how financial firms are shifting their business operations out of hyper-expensive New York City to “lower cost, more business-friendly environments.” Although Phoenix won the top spot, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin came in second, third and seventh, respectively, for financial services job growth in the 2008-2013 period. If you are in the financial services industry, this is an excellent story to read. See “Y’all Street: Could Dallas oust New York City as a global financial capital?”

Meanwhile, another former Californian, Katie Burke, reported on a high-growth software company, Rev-Ignition, relocating its headquarters from Ontario, Calif. to Texas. See the San Antonio Business Journal story “Payment software company relocates CA headquarters to San Antonio.”

My studies show that for many years Texas has ranked as the number one state to which California companies migrate.

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One focus of this blog has been to address California’s difficult business environment.

Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

California Loss: Swiss Company Puts U.S. HQ in Phoenix, not San Francisco

June 9, 2016

The Kudelski Group, a Switzerland-based global technology company, has an office in San Francisco, but selected the Phoenix area for the location of its  350-job U.S. headquarters.

Arizona-StateSeal.svgAccording to the Phoenix Business Journal, “We wanted to be in a business-friendly environment,” said Richard Fennessy, CEO of Kudelski Security, the Group’s cybersecurity division. “The governor made it clear we’d find that (in Arizona).”

“We’re bringing our global finance, human resources, administration, legal and information technology divisions to Phoenix,” Fennessy said, which includes moving employees from Switzerland.

See the complete story at “EXCLUSIVE — Kudelski Security CEO: Phoenix made ‘best business case’ for HQ.”

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s perennially difficult business environment. Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

 

Top Destination for California Company Relocations: Texas

December 9, 2015

Today, the Dallas Morning News published a big spread online about businesses migrating from California to Texas. The story is based on our new study of 9,000 companies leaving California in the last seven years “with about 15 percent finding a home in the more business-friendly Lone Star state.” (The print version will appear sometime next week.)

California FlagExcerpts:

“This report echoes what businesses that relocate to Texas continue to say – they are sick and tired of being over-taxed and over-regulated and are making the economically sensible choice to move to Texas,” said John Wittman, deputy press secretary for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Office.

Texas Flag“Texas is an easier place in which to conduct a business,” said Joseph Vranich, president of Spectrum Location Solutions in Irvine, Calif. “Why is that so? A lot of people think it’s taxes, but in my view the No. 1 benefit is an easier regulatory environment. California’s regulatory regime is so harsh that it causes companies to look at all kinds of states to go to.”

California … is one of the costliest states in which to do business, with expenses 20 percent to 35 percent higher than other states, Vranich says.

Of all U.S. cities, Austin was No. 1, gaining 86 California corporate sites or expansions. Dallas ranked sixth (20 companies), San Antonio was No. 8 (16), Houston was No. 11 (11), Plano and Irving tied with Hillsboro, Ore., for No. 13 (9) and Fort Worth tied with Tempe, Ariz., for No. 14 (8).

The online version has a drop-down menu that permits searches by year, company, city, industry and product/service.

See the full Dallas Morning News story here.

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s perennially difficult business environment. Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

 

California: Awful Ranking in Business Tax Survey; How One Company Owner Said ‘Goodbye’

November 18, 2015

The Tax Foundation issued its 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index, a highly respected report on the topic. For the fourth year in a row California ranks at No. 48 – meaning that taxes on businesses are worse only in New York and New Jersey.

Calif FTB LogoBefore saying more about the Index, let’s bring to light how some business owners feel about taxes in California.  I recently came across comments by Erica Douglass, a young tech entrepreneur, who moved the headquarters of her company, Whoosh Traffic, from San Diego to Austin, Texas. Although what she said is several years old, her comments remain relevant today:

Dear California, I’m leaving you. One thing I’ve struggled with for years is a government that is notoriously business-unfriendly – with everything from high taxes on business earnings to badgering businesses into more work to satisfy the bureaucracy. California decided that businesses grossing over $100,000 a year should have an account to report quarterly on the sales tax customers pay for goods sold. But my company sold services – not products – which aren’t taxed. When I closed the account with the state (by going into a local office and spending nearly an hour explaining my situation), they forced it open again and sent me a nastygram explaining that I would owe fines for not filing the quarterly reports. It takes time to fill them out, even if you owe nothing. Also, the state charges a 10% income tax on all income over $47,055 in addition to an 8.25-9.25% sales tax (depending on where you buy products). I paid enough in California income tax in one year alone to hire another worker for my business. I’d bet that I’m far more efficient at creating jobs as a small business owner than the state is given the same amount of money. And a really dumb law for small business owners is an annual $800 fee just to have a corporation in California. Most states only charge you a few dollars annually. California’s is exorbitant. (Her comments were edited for brevity.)

How many other business owners share Ms. Douglass’s frustration? With the state ranking at No. 48, the answer is “plenty.”

Back to the Tax Foundation. The organization compiles the Index each year to rank the 50 U.S. states across more than 100 variables in the areas of corporate income tax, individual income tax, sales tax, property tax, and unemployment insurance tax. The Index enables business leaders, government policymakers, and taxpayers to gauge how their states’ tax systems compare. While there are many ways to show how much is collected in taxes by state governments, the Index is designed to show how states structure tax systems and provide a roadmap for improvement.

Improvement? There will be numerous proposals to increase taxes (business and personal) considered by the California legislature in 2016 as well as ballot propositions to do the same. I don’t know of a single serious proposal to reduce state taxes in California.

Key findings from Tax Foundation

The top ten states are Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, Montana, New Hampshire, Indiana, Utah, and Texas. The bottom ten states are Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota, California, New York, and New Jersey.

Source: 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index

Note: The Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research think tank, based in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s leading independent tax policy research organization. Since 1937, its principled research, analysis, and experts have informed smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s perennially difficult business environment. Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.

Cost of Doing Business Report Again Shows California as Most Expensive

June 30, 2015

“California continues to have the highest business tax climate on the West Coast. This reality compels businesses to reconsider their relationship with the State and look elsewhere for a lower-cost solution.” – Larry Kosmont

For ten years now I’ve been posting opinion and news pieces on the Internet, but today marks the first time that I’m republishing someone’s news release. I’m doing so because of the excellent findings in a well-respected Cost of Doing Business Survey. For an abridged version of the announcement, read on . . .

Claremont, Calif., June 29, 2015 – Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State & Local Government today released the 20th annual Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey. The Rose Institute gathers business fees and a variety of tax rates from 305 selected cities, focusing on the states where business relocation is the most active.

The 2014 edition encompasses the most recent calendar year and takes a close look at business costs in California along with eight other western states that many companies view as possible alternatives to California (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington).

Rankings for each city are divided into one of five “Cost Ratings” groups: Very Low Cost ($), Low Cost ($$), Average Cost ($$$), High Cost ($$$$), and Very High Cost ($$$$$).

Highlights: Most Expensive Cities

Of the 20 most expensive cities surveyed, 12 are located in California; 9 are in Southern California and 3 are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area are the two most expensive metropolitan areas in the western United States.

Seven out of the twenty most expensive western cities surveyed are in Los Angeles County: Those cities are Bell, Beverly Hills, Culver City, El Segundo, Inglewood, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.

Highlights: Least Expensive Cities

Texas stands out as a low-cost state, with six cities on the list of twenty least expensive western cities surveyed. Both of the least expensive cities in California, Moorpark and Mission Viejo, are located in Southern California.

California Cities Continue to Rank as High Cost – No Relief in Sight

“California continues to have the highest business tax climate on the West Coast. This reality compels businesses to reconsider their relationship with the State and look elsewhere for a lower-cost solution,” according to Larry Kosmont, President of Kosmont Companies and founding publisher of the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey.

Kosmont maintains that firms still want to locate in California, citing the Golden State’s world-class weather (although recently dry), amenities, large and diverse workforce, and strategic Pacific Rim location. “Mid-to-large corporations have a love-hate relationship with California. They may want to be in California, but in their attempt to control costs and remain competitive, many CEO’s are motivated to ask, ‘How small an operation in California can I manage and still service that market?’ As a result, the sales, design office, or distribution unit may stay or even expand in places in or nearby Los Angeles, San Diego or the Bay Area, but other operating units are more likely to end up in states like Nevada, Arizona or Texas,” says Kosmont.

[From experience, I can say that Mr. Kosmont’s views are quite accurate. – J.V.]

Fueling an environment unfriendly to business, numerous city elections during the past few years have resulted in increased taxes at the local level. In 2014, an astounding 65 local sales tax measures were decided, and of this total, 50 were approved by voters.

Almost every year, the California Legislature considers whether the Property Tax on businesses should be increased. Called the split roll, if adopted, it would require businesses to pay property taxes at a rate higher than the homeowners’ rate versus the present system where property taxes are taxed based on the same formula, whether a residence, apartment building, or property used for commercial or industrial purposes.

The twenty most expensive cities in the West in 2014 are (in alphabetical order):

Bell, Calif.
Bellingham, Wash.
Berkeley, Calif.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Chandler, Ariz.
Culver City, Calif.
Denver, Colo.
El Segundo, Calif.
Glendale, Calif.
Inglewood, Calif.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Oakland, Calif.
Phoenix, Ariz.
Portland, Ore.
San Bernardino, Calif.
San Francisco, Calif.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Seattle, Wash.
Tacoma, Wash.
Tucson, Ariz.

The twenty least expensive cities in the West in 2014 are (in alphabetical order):

Abilene, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Eugene, Ore.
Everett, Wash.
Federal Way, Wash.
Fort Worth, Texas
Gresham, Ore.
Henderson, Nev.
Houston, Texas
Kent, Wash.
Las Vegas, Nev.
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Moorpark, Calif.
Ogden, Utah
Plano, Texas
Reno, Nev.
Sparks, Nev.
Spokane, Wash.
Yakima, Wash.

The complete news release can be found at PRWEB.

Some background information about the survey is here.

The Rose Institute’s interesting history is here.

To purchase the 2014 survey, click on the Institute’s logo, below:

The Rose Institute of State and Local Government

Congratulations to all who worked on this excellent survey.

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s perennially difficult business environment. Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions. Joe helps companies find great locations in which to grow. Also, Joe has been a Keynote Speaker for more than 20 years – see A Speaker Throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia.


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