Archive for the ‘California Regulations’ 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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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.

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.

 

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.

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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.

 

Los Angeles KTTV Editorial – ‘California Losing Companies & Jobs’

October 7, 2016

Now here is an editorial that gets to the point about California’s business departures, saying, “Governor Brown: Your attitude needs to change…. Creating a climate that is business friendly should come from the top and be a priority.”

ch-11-point-of-view-calif-losing-jobsThe piece runs a lengthy news crawl at the bottom of the screen that shows the names of some of the companies that have relocated in full or in part out of California.

The commentary cites my study issued in January, entitled, “California Business Departures: An Eight-Year Review 2008-2015.”

The views expressed by the station’s Vice President and General Manager, Bob Cook, are in concert with the assessments held by business leaders throughout the state.

See KTTV’s “Point of View: California Losing Jobs.”

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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.

Inspirational Californian Must Relocate – Here Is Why He’s Moving to Georgia

June 28, 2016

This is the most touching “relocation story” ever to appear on this blog.

First – it’s been said time and again that California’s housing is so unaffordable that poor people are the ones who are hurt the most, a situation aggravated by the state’s land-use regulations and tax policies.

Marty TurciosThis is an account of a challenged couple, Marty Turcios and his girlfriend Melody Lacy, who are planning to leave the state because of high housing costs. They expect to move to Georgia by late September or early October and do so in a way that allows them to keep helping disadvantaged people.

Marty is leading a full life giving golf lessons to many types of limited-ability people every year, which he does cheerfully despite having cerebral palsy.

A Golf Channel special shows Marty giving golf instructions to high school students, to people with developmental disabilities and to disabled veterans, many of whom have post traumatic stress disorders. “I treat them like golfers and not like people with disabilities,” he said. His teaching includes instructing people in wheelchairs how to putt. See the remarkable video “Golf in America: Marty’s Story.”

With a Masters degree in Recreational Therapy, Marty was a coach at the University of California at Berkeley and at a local high school. Also, he created the Marty Turcios Therapeutic Golf Foundation based in Richmond, about 20 miles from San Francisco.

Now he and Melody want to move to Augusta, Georgia. Why? Well, besides it being the Home of the Masters and a place brimming with golf courses, here is what Marty said to his Facebook followers about housing:

“We will miss you and our students so much. We, as a disabled couple, have spent five years trying to figure out how to stay in the Bay Area. We have tried everything to find affordable rental, to no avail, we tried to figure out how to buy a home around here, which is cheaper than renting, to no avail. We tried to build a container home on friends’ land, but due to the restrictive building codes and lack of water that did not work out either. We finally gave up . . . and looked at moving to Augusta. This has been a long, hard decision and now we are under a deadline to move out so we are hoping for a little help from our donors to relocate the program. Augusta has a huge veterans center and a large disabled population. Please accept our sincere apologies for having to leave and try to wish us well.”

While visiting their potential new turf, he met with Augusta University Athletic Director Clint Bryant and looked at housing. Here is what they posted about their visit:

We just found a home in Augusta for less than $25k that is perfect for us but it might go soon at that price in that lovely neighborhood. We need to raise the money to put down on this house right away!”

“We are finally back from Augusta, but we are not feeling nearly as ‘at home’ as we felt in Georgia! We have so much to tell you all about Marty’s multi-level work with Augusta University and Marty’s up-and-coming programs with Wedges and Woods! The home we chose is only blocks from the athletic and sports offices on the beautiful Forest Hills Golf Course.

Think of it – an inexpensive home near Forest Hills, which Augusta Magazine repeatedly names the city’s “Best Public Golf Course.”

Here is a summary of the appeal to help finance the move:

For more than a decade Marty Turcios, who was born with cerebral palsy, has taught golf lessons to disabled people throughout the Bay Area including veterans with traumatic brain injuries, teens and adults with autism, Down’s syndrome and other severe disabilities including amputees and stroke survivors. “Our home in Richmond is being sold and we are moving to Augusta, Georgia where there is a huge veterans center and affordable housing among eight golf courses. We have to go due to the cost of housing in the Bay Area and we will continue to teach golf, as therapy, to over a hundred separate individual disabled people every year. We are sad to go. Please send us off with enough money to get set up in Augusta in celebration of Marty Turcios’s service to the Bay Area and particularly Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. We will use the money to rent a truck ($2,771), down payment on a house ($2,250), send out a mailing with the new address ($350), for a grand total of $6,371 dollars. This move means housing security to us, which we, at age 56 and 60, have never yet known. We will be so thankful to everyone that helps and remember that every donation is totally tax deductible because we are a public charity under the 501(c)3 laws of the Federal Government. We have served the Bay Area at no cost to the disabled participants at all for over a decade. Now we need to move and we are sorry to leave you all.”

CerebralPalsy.org has a remarkable story about Marty – “Golfer swings past physical challenges.”

It appears that Augusta already has begun giving Marty and Melody a warm welcome based on WRDW-TV coverage: “Therapeutic Golf Foundation relocating from California to Augusta to rehabilitate those with disabilities.”

Another Firm Says ‘Bye’ to California: Moves Silicon Valley Headquarters to Indiana

June 16, 2016

Determine, Inc., a software company, will relocate its headquarters to Carmel, Indiana, about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. The company’s announcement said the new headquarters will provide a home base as of this month (June) for its worldwide business, which includes offices in California, Georgia, France and the United Kingdom.

Indiana-StateSeal.svg“It was a big decision to leave Silicon Valley,” said Patrick Stakenas, Determine’s president and CEO. “Locating in Carmel offers us an extremely solid business environment and a quality of life that will allow us to attract and retain talented employees. Due to these key points, the bulk of our future U.S.-based growth will be in Indiana.”

Note the reference to attract and retain employees. While I’m not privy to the company’s retention rate, it’s well known that employees in Silicon Valley and San Francisco are job hoppers extraordinaire.

Gov. Mike Pence said, “In Indiana, we maintain a balanced budget and have cut costs and taxes, creating a fiscally predictable environment that allows entrepreneurs and job creators to invest in what matters most – their business and their employees.”

The company’s enterprise customers include AOL, Cushman & Wakefield, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Nordstrom, and Sony Music Entertainment.

The Indianapolis Star reported that Determine Inc. has been based in the heart of Silicon Valley in San Mateo.

Inside Indiana Business said Determine is hiring for customer support, professional services, software development and financial positions. The company was founded in 1996 under the name Selectica.

A study, California Business Departures: An Eight-Year Review 2008-2015, published this January, included a sampling of other California-to-Indianapolis moves.

For example, Memory Ventures, in looking for a location for the growing company’s new headquarters, avoided Los Angeles. “The business environment in California is very challenging,” CEO Anderson Schoenrock said, citing the tax structure, government regulation and the high cost of living. “Over time, that grinds on you and your employees.” The company was founded in 2007 with its first brand, ScanDigital, and has been featured on the Inc. 500 and Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 lists.

Last year, Emarsys, a Vienna, Austria-based digital technology company, located its North American headquarters in Indianapolis. Emarsys has a handful of employees in California, and decided to settle in Indianapolis after considering San Francisco.

Finally, Appirio Inc., another software company, moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Indianapolis.

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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.


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