Archive for the ‘Business Location’ category

California Lithium Battery Maker Heads to Appalachia

January 5, 2018

It’s rare that I replicate posts from other sources. However the piece below by Wendell Cox, which appeared today in NewGeography.com, may appeal to readers interested in corporate location issues.

It is starting out to be a happy new year in Pikeville, Kentucky. Little in technology is more “cutting edge” today that lithium battery manufacturing. Elon Musk last year chose Nevada, not California for his mega plant a few years ago. Now, lithium battery manufacturer Ener Blu has announced plans to move, “lock stock and barrel” from Riverside-San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, to Appalachian Kentucky, with its plant to be located in Pikeville, to be built on what was a surface coal mine. Plans are to create 875 manufacturing jobs. Ener Blue also will move its headquarters to Lexington, Kentucky’s second largest metropolitan area and the home of the University of Kentucky.

Pikeville: A Unique Move

This could be a very significant move. On the surface, it looks fundamentally different from the many corporate moves that have left high-cost California behind as companies seek the greener pastures of lower taxes, less regulation and lower costs of living (driven largely by better housing affordability) in their efforts to recruit talented staff. The most significant examples are Japanese car manufacturers that have moved their US headquarters to Dallas-Fort Worth and Nashville, which have become major metropolitan areas capable of competing for just about any company looking to move, not to mention households seeking better opportunities as well as urban amenities at an affordable price.

But Pikeville is no Dallas-Fort Worth or Nashville. It is not even a micropolitan area, much less a metropolitan area. The city (municipality) had a population of under 7,100 in 2016, up just 200 from the 2010 census. Pikeville is the county seat of Pike County, which has a population of 61,000, down from 65,000 in 2010.

Appalachian Poverty

Pike County is at the core of one of America’s poorest regions, the Appalachians. Pike County’s economy has long been dependent on coal and even before recent setbacks, Appalachian coal regions have had more than their share of poverty. The recent declines in coal employment have been legendary. Eastern Kentucky has been particularly hard hit. In the last six years, nearly 75 percent of its coal jobs have been lost.

The latest data from the Appalachian Commission shows Pike County to have a poverty rate of 22.9 percent, 48 percent above the national poverty rate. Its poverty rate is more than double the overall poverty rate for the entire Appalachian region, which stretches from Upstate New York to Mississippi. The median household income is approximately 40 percent below the national figure.

Appalachian Hope

But not all see Pikeville as a place without a future. This would include prolific demographer Lyman Stone, who wrote more than one year ago about the progress that has been made in Pikeville, even as the rural and coal economy surrounding it declines. Pikeville has been rejuvenated by the expansion of its small university, the University of Pikeville, which has more than doubled its enrollment over the past two decades. Stone anticipates continued growth.

Moreover, there is more good news for Eastern Kentucky than just Pikeville. Braidy Industries has embarked on a project to build the first new aluminum plant in the United States in 30 years in Greenup County, on the south bank of the Ohio River west of Huntington, West Virginia. After the plant opens there are plans for more than 500 full time employees.

The tendency over the past few decades has been for the US to shed its manufacturing functions to lower cost venues overseas. At the same time, many areas have been left behind. As the cost of living differences expand between the more expensive metropolitan areas and the rest of the United States, it may be that US corporate interests, and others, will identify opportunities for profitable operation, while at the same time rejuvenating places that have been left behind, like Pikeville and Greenup County.

Meanwhile, back in Pikeville, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Congressman Hal Rogers and Pikeville state Senator Ray Jones II, were present for Ener Blu’s Pikeville announcement. The Governor, according to U.S. News and World Report predicted that the company’s arrival would transform an area where the coal jobs have disappeared. Congressman Rogers added “this is where we’ve got a lot of workers needing work that are … capable, ready to go,” An elated Mayor Jimmy Carter referred to the development as revolutionary “for the city of Pikeville and all of Eastern Kentucky.”

Jones, the Democratic Kentucky Senate minority leader, acknowledged partisan differences with Republican Governor Matt Bevin, but added that he has nothing but praise for the Governor’s efforts to revitalize eastern Kentucky. He added that, first the Greenup County Braidy announcement and now Ener Blu are two of the most positive economic news in this state in many years.

The Beginning of a Trend?

The real question is whether Pikeville and Greenup County are just blips in the continuing decline of small town America. There are many more small towns that have been left behind in the changing economy. Indeed, there is a broad view that small towns have little or no future, the theme of a New Year’s Day Wall Street Journal feature, “The Divide Between America’s Prosperous Cities and Struggling Small Towns.” Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman even wonders if there is a future for some major metropolitan areas, such as Rochester, New York.

Yet the developments in Eastern Kentucky suggest the potential for an alternate narrative. Greenup County could indicate a revived potential for traditional manufacturing even in the post-industrial age. Pikeville could indicate the potential for “cutting edge” technology to find a home in small towns. Many small towns may not die at all, as they are rejuvenated by public policies in places like [business-hostile] California, where the cost of living and cost of doing business has increased by such a degree so that even the most advanced industries seek other venues.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California). He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

[Note: my research found that other California companies have relocated jobs or facilities to Kentucky, the most recent of which was Cafe Press Inc., which in 2016 closed its Hayward office and moved employees to its Middletown, Ky. headquarters. CafePress was founded in a California garage in 1999. The company moved its headquarters to Kentucky in 2012 – the same year it went public – Joe.]

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.

I’m grateful to Joel Kotkin, Executive Editor of NewGeography.com, for permission to reprint the above column. The photo of the University of Pikeville and the map were extracted from a City of Pikeville Economic Development Video.

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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.

Businesses Joined by Non-Profits in Leaving California for Friendlier States

September 21, 2017

Friends in economic development agencies and in the site selection consulting world have asked why I haven’t posted anything in quite awhile. My answer is simple: I’ve been exceptionally busy. It certainly isn’t because there aren’t things to write about.

Another question I’m usually asked is whether businesses are still leaving California.

They are, especially with the state legislature again failing to provide tax or regulatory relief to its home-state companies. Overall, taxes, fees and regulations have gotten worse. Such a difficult business environment, combined with grim treatment by local governments, have caused operating costs to grow faster in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles than in virtually every other metropolitan area in the nation.

So large corporations and small business entities – joined by non-profit organizations – continue to look for ways to partially or fully exit the state. Today alone brought two examples, which by coincidence both involve Nevada.

The first is a loss for Los Angeles with Virtual Guard, Inc. leaving the city’s Sherman Oaks section. The company plans to relocate its headquarters and interactive command and control center to Clark County (Las Vegas area), citing an “unfriendly economic environment” in California. The move is likely to occur later this year.

There, Virtual Guard  is expected to hire 80 new employees within its first two years of operations. The video monitoring company is also a developer and integrator of technology in the perimeter security sector and its solutions are being used throughout the United States and Canada.

California, which a long time ago was a haven for aerospace companies, will lose another one next year.

ERG Aerospace Corp. plans to relocate its Oakland operations to McCarran, Nevada and make the Silver State its headquarters. The company manufactures materials and components for the aerospace, national defense, semiconductor manufacturing, biotech and other high technology industries. The target date for the move is the second quarter 2018, with operations to commence in the same quarter.

Several months ago, a non-profit organization said it would relocate out of state, too. Horizon University, a private, Christian school that started classes in 1993 in San Diego is heading to Indianapolis.

Horizon’s President Bill Goodrich calls the decision “a no-brainer.” He said Indiana offers a “climate” that was slipping away in California, and by that he wasn’t referring to San Diego’s sunny days. Goodrich said that the university helps people “grow academically” while integrating the “strong biblical teachings and we find in Indiana, there’s an openness to that.”

The move will allow the, accredited university to grow on a 97-acre spread – in a state with less “red tape” – and attract more students.

Thanks to high costs, a sizeable non-profit move is upcoming: Toastmasters International will shift its headquarters from its birthplace in Orange County to Colorado.

With about 180 employees, Toastmasters CEO Daniel Rex said costs in California were a concern. “When you look at the availability of workers, when you look at the cost of commerce and real estate, this is something that makes sense.” The organization is spending $19.5 million to buy a building in Englewood, south of Denver. Toastmasters is a legendary California institution, founded in 1924 in Santa Ana. Since 1990 it’s been based in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Business people who endure the decline in California’s business climate and pervasive cost increases can take some comfort knowing that some non-profit brethren are members of the same club.

I’ll write more about how California treats its commercial enterprises. But first let’s see how many business-helpful bills and business-damaging bills Gov. Jerry Brown will sign into law.

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.

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.

 

Orange County Register editorial: California stoking job growth – in the moving industry

May 29, 2016

Californiaocr R has earned quite a reputation for being openly hostile to business, as confirmed by numerous studies and surveys. Its plethora of taxes and regulations are driving away legions of entrepreneurs and workers, but they are doing wonders for one segment of the economy: the moving industry. It is almost as though that industry is secretly lobbying the state Legislature for its anti-business policies.

Joe Vranich, as president of Spectrum Location Solutions, an Irvine business relocation consulting firm, knows all about what drives businesses’ decisions to give up and leave for greener pastures.

See more of the editorial, which contains quotes from company CEO’s, 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.

Cities With ‘Top Talent’ Win in Business Location Decisions

April 14, 2016

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries an excellent story about the challenges companies face in finding locations that have employees with the proper skills. In my experience, talent availability is the top consideration in selecting communities as destinations for relocating or expanding companies.

US Map in BlueI received an email summarizing the story from Andy Levine, President and Chief Creative Officer of Development Counsellors International in New York. Its such a good digest that I’m passing it along (with his permission, of course) here:

“Firms Flock to Cities with Top Talent” is the headline of an article in today’s Wall Street Journal by reporter Lauren Weber.

For Salesforce and Cisco Systems, two companies profiled in the article, recent location decisions focused on a simple question: Where can we find the right talent? The article suggests companies are using new data sets to answer this increasingly important question:

  • A new tool called LinkedIn Economic Graph to identify the locations of potential job candidates with targeted skill sets
  • A close look at four-year universities and high-quality community colleges with relevant majors that can serve as feeder systems for a specific labor force
  • Review of online job ads to assess supply and demand for specific positions

In an interesting reversal, one unnamed aerospace company used “troves of resume and other data” to identify cities that had relevant workers with migration patterns that suggested a willingness to relocate for new job opportunities. They then spent their recruitment budget seeking to woo candidates from these talent-rich cities to their location in Seattle.

Read the full WSJ article here.

I thank Andy at Development Counsellors International, whose site is 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.

 

No Surprise: Small Businesses Unhappy in California

March 17, 2015

Based on a new survey, 20 percent of small businesses in California are considering leaving the state. Today, the Orange County Register published an editorial on the topic, which concluded: “When one-in-five small businesses express a desire to leave the state, it is time to admit that there is a problem with California’s business climate.” Yours truly is gratified to have contributed to the article. See more at “Survey: Don’t go West, small businesses.”

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.