AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry wrapped up his high-profile recruiting trip to California on Wednesday without having persuaded any businesses to relocate to his state — at least not yet.
On a conference call with reporters from Laguna Beach, the Republican said he spent his four days meeting with entrepreneurs and business leaders and held a reception for more than 200 California companies that have expressed interest in moving to Texas. Such relocations can take time, but Perry also offered no details on prospects, much less concrete announcements.
In a small but heavily publicized media campaign last week, a privately funded marketing firm produced radio ads in California featuring Perry and denigrating that state's taxes and regulation while touting the Texas business climate. A progressive Texas political action committee responded Tuesday with radio ads in California taunting Perry.
Perry said on the call that "this isn't about bashing California; it's about promoting Texas." But he went on to offer a few digs. When asked if Texas' light regulatory rules have contributed to a high number of worksite deaths, the governor said he thought it had more to do with high-risk oil and gas industry jobs prevalent in his state.
"Y'all in California are not very knowledgeable about the energy industry and that is a fairly dangerous workplace," Perry said, ignoring California's green-technology initiatives.
And, even though Perry himself has called for increasing state spending to improve roads and highways, he said a lack of Texas infrastructure hasn't been a concern for California business leaders used to mind-boggling traffic.
"When you drive through LA and you see the congestion on the highways here, they even probably think I-35 is flowing pretty well at 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon," Perry said, referring to the heavily congested interstate that runs north-south through Texas, linking San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.
Perry, the longest-serving governor in the country, noted that he's made similar business recruitment trips to California in the past, though often with far less fanfare. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, last week dismissed the radio ads featuring Perry as a cheap gimmick.
"Gov. Brown may call it poaching. I just call it giving people an option of where they can locate their business and be able to keep more of their money," Perry said.
He said competition between the states is healthy, even if it can ruffle some feathers — and he's out to win.
"It's uncomfortable. Any race is," Perry said. "I would always rather be at the head of the race, letting someone look at my backside as I either pass them or am pulling away."