Archive for the ‘Site Selection’ 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.

Advertisements

The Person to Change the NFL’s Culture: Condoleezza Rice

October 17, 2017

This is the first time I’m digressing from site selection and location issues because – as a military veteran – I must express my disapproval of the irresponsible actions of NFL players and NFL leadership. To see why I’m departing from my usual topics, please read on….

Untold millions of football fans are angry with those in the NFL who disrespect the American flag, the national anthem and military veterans – and it started long before President Trump said a word about it.

Now we learn that league owners the players and their labor union, the NFLPA, will meet to discuss current controversies. What they don’t understand is this: No matter what they decide, many fans no longer care unless they clean house.

When an organization is dysfunctional, when it suffers from wishy-washy leadership, a major change is needed at the top. Fortunately, there are ways to restore the public’s respect for the NFL through a reorganization and putting an accomplished woman, Condoleezza Rice, at the top.

But first, let’s look to when NFL players were treated as heroes and patriots. An example is “Rocky” Bleier, who overcame serious Vietnam War injuries and helped the Pittsburgh Steelers march to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s. Now, decades later, he continues to mingle with and be respected by military veterans around the nation.

On the field today, grown men act in ways that were unthinkable in Bleier’s day, so it’s understandable why an NFL boycott is being so fiercely and indefatigably promoted by outraged fans.

We can fix this. The late Steelers Coach Chuck Noll – who led his team to four Super Bow victories – always told his players, “You have to replace bad habits with good habits.” While he was speaking of on-field plays, I think his words are apropos to showing respect to the fans. (Think about that, Mike Tomlin.)

Who can instill good habits in football players today? Well, I’m confident it’s Condoleezza Rice. The time is overdue to make her the new NFL commissioner. Many people don’t know that as far back as 2002 she called it her “dream job.”

Several years ago, when Commissioner Roger Goodell failed to strongly penalize players involved in domestic violence, a movement began – which included diverse media outlets such as the Washington Post and Fox News – to draft Ms. Rice to replace him.

She is superbly qualified. ESPN once noted that Ms. Rice is “arguably the most interesting member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. She can talk about the national championship or national security. She can discuss the Middle East or middle linebacker.” It’s been said that “Just like she could speak Russian to the Russians, she could talk football to the football players.”

Big, hulking players have been known to surround her and listen – really listen – during her post-game reviews.

Stanford football coach David Shaw realizes that. He said of Ms. Rice – “If she ever sees us play a prevent defense, she’s going to be in my office. She hates prevent defense. She wants to be aggressive.”

Considering her experience in handling one international crises after another, she is more than capable of cleaning up a league filled with high-testosterone males who demand to do things their way and only their way. And since she’s dealt with leaders of totalitarian states whose behavior has been criminal, she can handle NFL players who have shameful criminal records.

Those players who want to inflict Harvey Weinstein-type abuse on their wives and girlfriends might want to think twice about that with NFL commissioner Rice in charge.

May we frankly address the touchy subject of race?

Ms. Rice’s role as the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State is relevant. Since a majority of NFL players are black, it could be helpful that she be the one to wield authority as commissioner. With her impressive background, wouldn’t many players regardless of race thoughtfully consider her viewpoints?

On a related note, I point with pride to the football team at my Pennsylvania alma mater, Slippery Rock University: They wore special uniforms in the school’s “Salute to Military and First Responders” game held in late September.

The players wore “cadet gray” uniforms, designed by Adidas, paying tribute to one of the original colors worn by cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point starting in the early 1800s.

Today’s NFL could learn something about respect from Slippery Rock’s team and from players like Rocky Bleier. But first a housecleaning is in order to change the league’s culture. The person to do that is Condoleezza Rice.

Final thought: She is tough enough to push back against those who treat our national symbols with contempt. If she were commissioner, and since she is a concert pianist, she just might play the national anthem at the start of a game. Pity the player who dares to take a knee then.

This column is posted in memory of the best friend I had while serving in the U.S. Navy, Hiawatha Lee Langley, of Aircraft Squadron VS-24, who perished after being swept overboard from the aircraft carrier, USS Intrepid. As the squadron’s Personnel Clerk, I had the terrible job of doing the paperwork associated with his death. I remember meeting his girlfriend and my heart went out to her as well as to his family. After all these years, I still think of Hiawatha and wish we could have gotten together and shared life’s important moments throughout the decades. I believe that Hiawatha would join me in being incredibly offended by the vulgar behavior of NFL players who disrespect the national anthem, our nation’s flag and military veterans. Although a lifelong Steelers fan, I feel so insulted and marginalized that I don’t know how I can ever again watch another Steelers game or any NFL game. And I’m in some good company: Vin Scully, the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers sportscaster (who earlier did broadcasts for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees), said in November that he’ll “never watch another NFL game again” because of the protests. For the record, Hiawatha is buried at Langley Family Cemetery (Beulah Twp.), Johnston County, North Carolina. Jan. 30, 1945 – Jan. 16, 1965. RIP Hiawatha.

Joseph Vranich is known as The Business Relocation Coach while the formal name of his business is Spectrum Location Solutions.

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.

Another Company Moves Headquarters Out of California – This Time it’s Irvine

February 11, 2017

AutoAlert, an Irvine, Calif.-based tech firm, announced today that it’s planning to relocate its headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. The firm offers automotive software tools for management and communications.

missouri-state-sealWith plans to create 300 area jobs in coming years, AutoAlert CEO Mike Dullea said, “Our company is raising the bar to bring high paying tech jobs right to the heart of Kansas City. AutoAlert’s Kansas City headquarters will be operational in the spring of 2017. It seems the company is wasting no time in heading to the Midwest.

The firm will maintain an office in Irvine, the size of which is unspecified.[1]

“Just got off the phone with the CEO of AutoAlert,” Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said in a release. “We had a great conversation. He told me that because of new policies like Right to Work, which show our commitment to growing our economy, they are excited to bring their business here and create jobs. This is what you sent me here to do, and I’m proud to say that we are getting results for you.”[2]

Dullea said, “As a tenured CEO I have never received such a personal call from a governor to thank me. The efforts and words of Governor Greitens say a lot about him and the type of leadership we can expect to see moving forward.”[3]

[1] Source: Bobby Burch, “Cali tech firm AutoAlert to create 300 Kansas City jobs, Startland, Feb. 10, 2017 http://www.startlandnews.com/2017/02/cali-tech-firm-autoalert-relocates-kc-creating-300-jobs/

[2] Source: Rob Roberts,”California tech firm will move HQ, create 300 jobs in downtown KC,” Kansas City Business Journal, Feb. 10, 2017 http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2017/02/10/california-tech-firm-moving-hq-creating-300-jobs.html

[3] “AutoAlert Corporate Office to Move: Will Expand to Downtown Kansas City, Mo.,” news release, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Feb. 10, 2017 https://ded.mo.gov/content/autoalert-corporate-office-move-will-expand-downtown-kansas-city-mo

* * *

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.

To Business Owners: Keep a Low Profile When Leaving California

January 25, 2017

Time and again I’ve encouraged smaller companies planning to escape California’s business-hostile environment to avoid publicly discussing their move. What follows is the story of an honest business owner expressing his legitimate concerns about operating in the state – and the unfortunate blowback that resulted.

city-of-los-angeles-sealHouman Salem, who owns a small apparel design and manufacturing business, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that higher labor costs are forcing him to leave California for Nevada. His article contained common sense, non-incendiary views:

“The biggest reason [to relocate] is the minimum wage, which will rise to $15 by 2021 in the county and by 2022 statewide. I write with some hesitancy, because I’m in no way an opponent of higher pay. When you have a company with fewer than 50 employees, you get to know them pretty well and have a genuine concern for them as individuals. But that has to be balanced with concern for keeping your clients, who can always take their business to other countries or states.”

He added, “When the $15 minimum wage is fully phased in, my company would be losing in excess of $200,000 a year (and far more if my workforce grows as anticipated). That may be a drop in the bucket for large corporations, but a small business cannot absorb such losses. I could try to charge more to offset that cost, but my customers – the companies that are looking for someone to produce their clothing line – wouldn’t pay it. The result would be layoffs.”

The reaction on social media was one of rage rather than reflection, according to Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute, writing in the Orange County Register:

“Good riddance,’ said one of the top comments on Facebook. ‘If you can’t pay your employees a living wage, you don’t have my sympathy,’ said another. Other comments accused Salem of being a bad businessman, of keeping too much money for himself and of exploiting his employees. Some readers even left negative reviews of his business online – even though they’d never met him or done business with him.”

Salem, the founder and CEO of ARGYLE Haus of Apparel, said he fears that the outraged reaction will discourage other affected businesses from speaking out and telling their own story.

He is correct. As a consultant who helps companies find business-friendly locations in which to locate, I encourage clients to keep a low profile. Otherwise, they will be hammered without mercy from an uninformed public and sometimes from public officials who know little about what it takes to run a business.

Publicly held corporations must divulge a relocation because that is considered a “material” event.  That is why within just a few years we’ve seen media coverage of many companies moving jobs out of Los Angeles County to out-of-state locations. Examples: Toyota, Hilton Hotels, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Occidental Petroleum, Northrop Grumman and Walt Disney Co.

Salem also said he is “contacted on an almost daily basis by other L.A.-based companies in my industry who are scared about the future. They are looking to me for leadership, and want to talk about my decision to leave the state.”

He added that “When politicians talk about an ‘economy working for everyone’ – let me tell you, it’s not working for the small business owner.”

Salem chafed at critics who suggested he’s taking advantage of his employees. He has always paid above minimum wage even though doing so causes increases in payroll taxes and workers compensation.

Saltsman wrote: “Despite the challenges of doing business in California, Salem (unlike some of his competitors) is still committed to making his products domestically. ‘I’m an American – I want this country to do well, to succeed….’ He told me he’s not opposed to raising wages – but that the entire burden can’t rest on small business owners. ‘I need the government to meet me halfway. In California, unfortunately, that kind of compromise doesn’t exist.’”

Other businesses have cited the minimum wage increase while loading moving vans, namely: California Composites of Santa Fe Springs when shifting work to Texas (the company owner said if he were to stay “it would probably make me a nonprofit within a couple years or so”); Competitive Edge Research & Communications that relocated from San Diego to Texas; and Woof & Poof of Chico, which makes handcrafted pillows and stuffed figures, when transferring work to North Carolina.

I noticed something about this event that adds insult to injury. Salem’s website states, “Based in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, ARGYLE Haus is a founding member (emphasis added) of the L.A. Mayor’s Fashion Council, an organization dedicated to building and reinforcing the vibrant fashion and apparel industry in the greater Los Angeles area.”

A founding member? Have public officials shown any gratitude? Well, not that I know of from politicians like Gov. Jerry Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti or any member of city council. I wonder if any of them think they could run ARGYLE Haus better than Mr. Salem has.

It’s hardly surprising that Salem concluded, “We need more stable, blue-collar jobs in places like the San Fernando Valley – the kind I thought I was helping create. California, however, has put up a giant ‘Go Away’ sign.’”

Mr. Saltsman’s Orange County Register column is here: “Los Angeles’ ungracious response to minimum wage consequences.”

Mr. Salem’s Los Angeles Times opinion column is here: “Leaving for Las Vegas: California’s minimum wage law leaves businesses no choice.”

* * *

 

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.

Special ‘Christmas Card’ for 2016: USAF Band WWII Holiday Flashback

December 23, 2016

As I was wondering what Christmas message to share this year, a friend sent a video clip of a “musical flashback” that hit the right mood for me – I think it’s wonderful so I’m sharing it with all of you.

usaf-singersThe clip is the USAF’s Holiday Flashback to WWII “celebrating the service and sacrifices of our nation’s World War II veterans.” If it weren’t for people taking pictures with cell phones, you might think this was back in the ’40’s.

It has a flash mob feel as more and more musicians, singers and dancers show up as the production proceeds in Washington, D.C.’s  Union Station. At first, the tempo is a bit slow, but it picks up and leads to a Broadway-style song-and-dance ending.

Please sit back with your coffee or drink of your choice and enjoy. If you are like me, you’ll be glad you set aside time to watch all 9 minutes worth. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas to all. – Joe Vranich

See:

US Labor Secretary-Nominee Exits California’s Harsh Business Climate

December 10, 2016
By Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the California Small Business Action Committee

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee as Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, heads a California company that decided to move headquarters to Tennessee. His reasoning: California’s suffocating regulatory business climate.

dept-of-labor-logoLabor and union supporters immediately attacked Puzder, head of CKE Restaurants that operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants, when news of the pending appointment became public. Pudzer opposed California’s $15 minimum wage and has predicted that iPads and robots would soon take over some restaurant jobs.

However, Puzder has defended his statements in the past declaring that it is government policies that drive up the cost of labor to a point that employers must turn to automation to maintain the thin profit margins restaurants offer.

Puzder argues that government mandates are hurting the populations that those who pass the regulations are trying to protect. In his personal blog, Pudzer told of his interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show after California passed the $15 minimum wage. “Jobs will disappear when minimum wage increases make the cost of hiring employees exceed productivity. I also told (“Squawk Box” Co-Anchor Becky) Quick that raising wages so drastically will price entry-level workers out of jobs and force businesses to automate.”

Puzder is not opposed to minimum wage increases but he said he wants them to be “rational” so as to have minimal impact to help preserve jobs. He favors earned-income tax credits to help low paid workers.

He also argues that government policies especially in California stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and minorities who would move up to management and ownership of fast food restaurants.

When Pudzer announced the company’s headquarters’ move from Santa Barbara County to Nashville, Tennessee this past March he said the location of headquarters was unimportant. Where restaurants were building franchises and facilities is important and California presented too many business obstacles.

In a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Pudzer said, “California is not interested in having businesses grow.” He cited as example that it takes 60 days in Texas, 63 in Shanghai, and 125 in Novosibirsk, Russia for one of CKE’s restaurants to get a building permit after signing a lease. But in Los Angeles it takes 285 days. Pudzer said, “I can open up a restaurant faster on Karl Marx Prospect in Siberia than on Carl Karcher Boulevard in California,” a street named for Carl’s Jr. chain’s founder.

Beyond the difficult permitting process, Pudzer complained about labor regulations often required the company to battle class-action lawsuits in the state. He said over the previous eight years his company paid $20 million in damages and attorney fees fighting the lawsuits.

In discussing the debate over minimum wage, Pudzer said he is not a fan of automation at restaurants.

“There’s a personal element that you don’t get from machines, and I think you’re going to lose that.” Fast food is a “great level of job for people to enter the labor force. A high percentage of our employees, particularly in California, are immigrants.”

In a September Wall Street Journal piece Pudzer wrote, “At restaurant-industry meetings, my colleagues typically voice concerns about government mandates. I’d much prefer to hear them complain that labor costs are rising because companies are hiring and the growing market has made competition for workers stiff. A freer market would do much more to improve worker’s lives than the Labor Department’s new regulation.”

Puzder is the co-author of a 2010 book, “Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.”

If he gets the Labor job he can do something about it.

This column appeared on Dec. 9, 2016 in Fox & Hounds Daily, which gave permission to republish, and can be found here.

* * *

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.