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CLOSE TO HOME: California bad for business? Baloney

In a recent column in The Press Democrat, the writer expressed an oft-repeated belief that California has a bad business environment. That is not true. Oh, it is true enough that many people believe this. The facts tell a different story. The writer cited a list on which California was at the bottom. Let me counter that with more important lists. The 2013 Fortune magazine list of the 100 largest U.S. companies shows that five of the top 25 are home based in California. On an even more important list, California has five of the top 15 on the Fortune "Best Companies to Work For" list, including Google at No. 1 one. Apparently the biggest and best companies do quite well in California.

Why? The most often cited reason is education. The leading businesses now, and those positioned to do well in the future, need large numbers of highly educated or technically well-trained workers. This state has many of the world's leading universities. California is also geographically located nearer than most states to Asia, the current hotbed of commerce. The state is also full of high-spending consumers. And the weather is a big plus for some.

What makes a company good to work for? Let's look at just one local example, Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Technologies, a company that employed my wife for 28 years. In addition to good pay and benefits, the company provided employees with wonderful perks. The location of the plant is in a beautiful setting. The facility includes paved walking paths, a very nice dining complex, a softball diamond, a family picnic area, volleyball and basketball courts and much more. Other companies such as Cisco, Intel and Google provide on-site day care, exercise rooms, at-desk massage, dry cleaning pick-up and health clinic, to name just some extras.

The best companies value their employees. They are not driven by the conservative idea that low taxes and few regulations are the main attractors for business. Remember the well-publicized visit of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to California to lure away our businesses? Remember the lack of publicity about his success? If Texas were really such a business magnet, a trolling tour would have been unnecessary.

In fact, Gov. Jerry Brown was so little concerned about Perry's visit that he spent the time preparing for a trip to China. The Chinese have bushels of investment dollars, and they want to spend a significant amount on California projects.

An article in the Orange County Register on March 2, 2012 cites a study showing that 204 businesses left California in 2010 and 254 left in 2011. The state has more than 3.75 million businesses. Do the math with me. Those leaving represent a tiny fraction of 1 percent.

When Mark Zuckerberg packed his bags at Harvard to start his wildly successful Facebook business, he didn't head to the Lone Star State. He came to California. He wanted to be around other bright, inventive entrepreneurs like himself. Silicon Valley, and I submit Telecom Valley as well, are full of them.

So if a business owner wants to pay the lowest wages, grant the least amount of benefits, comply with the fewest health and safety regulations designed to protect workers, he should go to Texas.

California is a bad place for that business model. In fact, some land was recently cleared there by an explosion at a business owned by a person with those attitudes. That site can probably be obtained cheaply for a new business.

<i>Rick Owen is a former Sonoma County high school teacher and sales representative. He lives in Cloverdale.</i>


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