Thursday, December 22, 2016

Uber! Regulations Mean San Francisco Loses While Phoenix and Pittsburgh Win

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.

* * *

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s difficult business environment, as described in the study, California Business Departures: An Eight-Year Review 2008-2015, (PDF) updated Jan. 14, 2016.

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

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




Monday, December 12, 2016

US Labor Secretary-Nominee Flees California's Harsh Business Climate

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.”


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, as described in the study, California Business Departures: An Eight-Year Review 2008-2015, (PDF) updated Jan. 14, 2016.

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More California Companies Hearing ‘Move to Our State’ Pitches

This proves that for every action there is a reaction: New measures by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California legislature that have worsened our business environment have boosted efforts by other states to recruit California companies to their friendlier locations.

Each visiting out-of-state representative outlines how a California company will benefit by relocating to one of their communities. Economic Development agencies also promote the advantages to California firms of placing future expansions in their areas.

california-precip-map-not-copyrightedAlthough no official records exist regarding recruitment activity in California by economic development organizations, I've experienced several hundred touchpoints from parties in far-flung locations wishing to discuss the state’s business environment.

California industries being targeted include financial services, manufacturing, robotics, software, e-commerce, food processing, aerospace, pharma and biotech, plastics, electronics, distribution and even family-owned dairy farms.

In the past, officials from a couple of agencies would contact me every month, but now it’s often two or three times per week.

The states with the highest California-related activity are Texas with 62 agencies, Indiana following at 22 and Arizona at 18. I define activity as visits, phone calls or direct-mail campaigns.

But the true level of activity is greater. For example, organizations in Texas, Nevada and Florida – and economic development agencies in Phoenix, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh – make multiple overtures in California.

The representatives are able to project significant operating cost reductions when it comes to labor, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, health care, taxes, facility leases or purchases, regulatory compliance and transportation. Affordable housing in other parts of the country also make it easier for companies to attract and retain employees.

Officials in other states follow activity in Sacramento where Gov. Brown enacted about 800 new laws this year, some of which will result in more regulations and higher tax and energy costs for California companies.

They also are struck by the unfairness of California’s new one-size-fits-all minimum wage law, which forces companies in low-cost areas to pay big-city wages as if they were located in the West Coast’s most expensive cities – Los Angeles and San Francisco. The legislature and Gov. Brown put businesses that face competition from foreign companies at quite a disadvantage.

Without a change in California’s political climate, I expect more inquiries to come in from states seeking to grow their economic base.

The identities of the 247 economic development entities that represent touchpoints with Spectrum Location Solutions are as listed below:

Alabama:
  1. Alabama Power, Mobile
  2. Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, Robertsdale
  3. North Alabama Industrial Development Association, Decatur
  4. Power South Energy Cooperative, Montgomery
Arizona:
  1. Access Arizona, Casa Grande
  2. Apache Junction Economic Development Dept.
  3. Arizona Commerce Authority, Phoenix
  4. Arizona Public Service (utility), Phoenix
  5. Arizona Sun Corridor, Phoenix
  6. Avondale Economic Development Dept.
  7. Central Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation, Casa Grande
  8. Gilbert Office of Economic Development
  9. Glendale Office of Economic Development
  10. Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  11. Mesa Economic Development Dept.
  12. Queen Creek Mayor
  13. Salt River Project (utility), Phoenix
  14. Scottsdale Economic Development Dept.
  15. Surprise, AZ City Manager
  16. Tempe Economic Development Dept.
  17. Wickenburg Regional Economic Development Partnership
  18. Yuma Economic Development Dept.
Arkansas:
  1. Office of the Governor
Colorado:
  1. Centennial Economic Development
  2. Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp.
  3. Commerce City Economic Development Dept.
  4. Erie Economic Development Dept.
  5. Longmont Economic Development Partnership
  6. Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.
  7. Office of the Governor
  8. Westminster Economic Development Office
Florida:
  1. Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport
  2. Enterprise Florida, Orlando
  3. Florida East Coast Railway, Jacksonville
  4. Gulf Power, Pensacola
  5. Hernando County Economic Development Dept., Brooksville
  6. Jacksonville Port Authority
  7. Lake Wells Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Council
  8. Manatee County Port Authority, Palmetto
  9. Office of the Governor
  10. Orange County Economic Development
  11. Orlando Economic Development Commission
  12. Power South Energy Cooperative, Miramar Beach
  13. Santa Rosa County Economic Development, Milton
  14. Sarasota County Economic Development Corp., Sarasota
  15. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp.
  16. Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa
  17. Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., Tampa
Georgia:
  1. Atlanta Economic Development Corp.
  2. Atlanta Economic Development Dept.
  3. Fayette County Development Authority, Fayetteville
  4. Georgia Dept. of Economic Development, Atlanta
  5. Rabun County Economic Development Authority, Rabun Gap
Idaho:
  1. Coeur d’Alene Area Economic Development Corp.
  2. Grow Idaho Falls Inc.
Iowa:
  1. Iowa Economic Development Authority, Des Moines
  2. Office of the Governor
Indiana:
  1. Bloomington Economic Development Corp.
  2. Carmel Community Relations and Economic Development
  3. Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, Muncie
  4. Duke Energy Economic Development, Indianapolis
  5. Duke Energy Economic Development, Plainfield
  6. East Central Indiana Regional Partnership, Muncie
  7. Fishers Economic Development Dept.
  8. Grant County Economic Growth Council, Marion
  9. Harrison County Economic Development Corp., Corydon
  10. Hoosier Energy Economic Development Dept., Bloomington
  11. Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indianapolis
  12. Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Carmel
  13. Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce
  14. Indy Partnership, Indianapolis
  15. Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., Seymour
  16. Madison County Corp. for Economic Development, Anderson
  17. Noblesville Economic Development Dept.
  18. Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Fort Wayne
  19. Office of the Governor
  20. Shelby County Development Corp., Shelbyville
  21. Vectren Economic Development (utility), Evansville
  22. Whitley County Economic Development Corp., Columbia City
Kansas:
  1. Black Hills Energy, Wichita
  2. Go Topeka Economic Partnership
Kentucky:
  1. Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce
  2. Hopkins County Economic Development Corp., Madisonville
  3. Kyndle Economic Development for Northwest Kentucky, Henderson
  4. South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council, Hopkinsville
Louisiana:
  1. Baton Rouge Area Chamber
  2. Cleco Power, Crowley
  3. Entergy (utility), New Orleans
  4. Livingston Economic Development Council
  5. Louisiana Economic Development, Baton Rouge
  6. North Louisiana Economic Partnership, Shreveport
  7. Southwestern Electric Power Co., Shreveport
Missouri:
  1. Kansas City Area Development Council
  2. Kirksville Regional Economic Development Inc.
  3. Lincoln County Economic Development, Troy
  4. Missouri Partnership, St. Louis
  5. Moberly Area Economic Development Corp.
  6. Nodaway County Economic Development, Maryville
  7. Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, Hannibal
  8. Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
  9. Louis Regional Chamber
Michigan:
  1. Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Mississippi:
  1. Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, Inc. Pascagoula
  2. Mississippi Power, Meridian
North Carolina:
  1. Advantage West Economic Development Group, Fletcher
  2. Beaufort County Economic Development, Washington
  3. Charlotte Regional Partnership
  4. Davidson County Economic Development Commission, Lexington
  5. Duke Energy, Charlotte
  6. Greensboro Partnership Economic Development
New Mexico:
  1. Albuquerque Economic Development
  2. Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, Las Cruces
  3. NM Partnership, Albuquerque
Nevada:
  1. Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, Reno
  2. Henderson Economic Development Dept.
  3. Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance
  4. Nevada Office of Economic Development, Carson City
  5. Northern Nevada Development Authority, Carson City
  6. NV Energy, Reno
Ohio:
  1. Cuyahoga County Dept. of Development, Cleveland
  2. Greater Akron Chamber
  3. Greater Cleveland Partnership
  4. Jobs Ohio, Toledo
  5. Piqua Economic Development Dept.
  6. Team Northeast Ohio, Cleveland
  7. Tipp City Community and Economic Development Dept.
  8. Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber
Oklahoma:
  1. Greater Oklahoma City Chamber
  2. Norman Economic Development Dept.
Oregon:
  1. Business Oregon, Eugene
  2. Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Res., Economic Dept., Pendleton
  3. Greater Portland Inc.
  4. Hillsboro Economic Development
  5. Klamath County Economic Development, Klamath Falls
  6. McMinnville Economic Development Partnership
  7. Port of Portland
  8. Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. Medford
Pennsylvania:
  1. Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.
  2. Armstrong County Dept. of Economic Development, Kittanning
  3. Governor's Action Team
  4. Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  5. Greater Reading Economic Partnership
  6. Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer
  7. Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
South Carolina:
  1. Central South Carolina Economic Development, Columbia
  2. Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development, Conway
  3. Oconee County Economic Development Commission, Walhalla
  4. Richland County Economic Development, Columbia
  5. Santee Cooper (utility), Moncks Corner
  6. Spartanburg County Economic Futures Group
South Dakota:
  1. Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Tennessee:
  1. East Tennessee Economic Development Agency, Knoxville
  2. HTL Advantage (Haywood, Tipton, Lauderdale), ED Coalition, Covington
  3. Knoxville Chamber
  4. Montgomery County Economic Development Council, Clarksville
  5. Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  6. Tennessee Economic & Community Development, Nashville
  7. Tennessee Valley Authority, Nashville
  8. Williamson County Economic Development, Franklin
Texas:
  1. Allen Economic Development
  2. Amarillo Economic Development Corp.
  3. Arlington Economic Development Dept.
  4. Athens Economic Development Corp.
  5. Austin Chamber, Economic Development Dept.
  6. Bastrop Economic Development Corp.
  7. Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
  8. Bowie Economic Development Corp.
  9. Brownsville Economic Development Council
  10. Buda Economic Development Corp.
  11. Burleson Economic Development
  12. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, Economic Development Dept., Fort Worth
  13. Cedar Park Economic Development
  14. CenterPoint Energy, Houston
  15. Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp.
  16. Dallas Regional Chamber
  17. Denton Economic Development
  18. DeSoto Economic Development Corp.
  19. Flower Mound Economic Development Dept.
  20. Fort Worth Chamber, Economic Development Division
  21. Frisco Economic Development Corp.
  22. Georgetown Economic Development
  23. Greater Houston Partnership
  24. Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce
  25. Greater Waco Chamber Business Development
  26. Harlingen Economic Development Corp.
  27. Houston Port Region Economic Alliance
  28. Hutto Economic Development
  29. Katy Economic Development Council
  30. Kilgore Economic Development Corp.
  31. Kyle Economic Development
  32. Laredo Development Foundation
  33. Levelland Economic Development Corp.
  34. Lockhart Economic Development
  35. Longview Economic Development Corp.
  36. Lubbock Economic Development Alliance
  37. Matagorda County Economic Development Corp., Bay City
  38. McKinney Economic Development Corp.
  39. Midland Development Corp.
  40. Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corp.
  41. Nacogdoches Economic Development Corp.
  42. New Braunfels Economic Development
  43. Office of the Governor
  44. Oncor (utility), Dallas
  45. Pearland Economic Development Corp.
  46. Plano Economic Development
  47. Port of Houston Authority
  48. Richardson Economic Development Partnership
  49. Rio South Texas Economic Council, Edinburg
  50. Rockwall Economic Development Corp.
  51. Round Rock Chamber Economic Development Partnership
  52. Rowlett Economic Development
  53. San Antonio Economic Development Foundation
  54. San Marcos Partnership Economic Development
  55. Seguin Economic Development
  56. Southern Texas Economic Development Foundation, Beaumont
  57. Sugar Land Economic Development
  58. Team Texas, Austin
  59. Texas Economic Development & Tourism Dept., Austin
  60. Texas Secretary of State
  61. Victoria Economic Development Corp.
  62. Wichita Falls Economic Development
Utah:
  1. Cache County Chamber, Economic Development, Logan
  2. Economic Development Corp. of Utah, Salt Lake City
  3. Office of Economic Development, Salt Lake City
  4. Office of the Governor
  5. Ogden Community and Economic Development Dept.
  6. Weber County Economic Development Partnership, Ogden
Virginia:
  1. Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Tysons Corner
  2. Hampton Economic Development
  3. Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, Norfolk
  4. Isle of Wright County Economic Development, Isle of Wright
  5. Office of the Governor
  6. Portsmouth Economic Development Dept.
  7. Roanoke Regional Partnership
  8. Rockingham County Dept. of Community Development, Harrisonburg
  9. Virginia Beach Economic Development
  10. Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Richmond
  11. Virginia Port Authority, Norfolk
  12. Virginia’s 2000 Business and Economic Development Alliance, Lynchburg
  13. Virginia’s Growth Alliance, Keysville
  14. Washington County Economic Development & Community Relations, Abingdon
Washington:
  1. Greater Spokane Inc.
  2. Port of Sunnyside
  3. Yakima County Development Association
West Virginia:
  1. Jefferson County Development Authority, Charles Town
  2. West Virginia Development Office, Charleston
A state-by-state tally is below:

Rank
State
Number of Organizations
1
Texas
62
2
Indiana
22
3
Arizona
18
4
Florida
17
5
Virginia
14
6
Missouri
9
6
Tennessee
9
8
Colorado
8
8
Ohio
8
8
Oregon
8
11
Louisiana
7
11
Pennsylvania
7
13
North Carolina
6
13
Nevada
6
13
South Carolina
6
13
Utah
6
17
Georgia
5
18
Alabama
4
18
Kentucky
4
20
New Mexico
3
20
Washington
3
22
Idaho
2
22
Iowa
2
22
Kansas
2
22
Mississippi
2
22
Oklahoma
2
22
West Virginia
2
28
Arkansas
1
28
Michigan
1
28
South Dakota
1
Total
247

One focus of this blog has been to address California’s difficult business environment, as addressed in the study, California Business Departures: An Eight-Year Review 2008-2015, (PDF) updated Jan. 14, 2016.

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.