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The Enemy Within

A newspaper article earlier this month discussed at length the tactics other states are using to lure businesses away from San Diego and other parts of California. Sending promotional literature touting “The Lights Are Always On In Tennessee” and flashlights to California-based businesses are some of the schemes that particular state is using to interest technology sector businesses to relocate there.

Cute. However, business people who are tempted by clever ads and trinkets to move to the green hills of the Volunteer State better like deep-fried food, mosquitoes the size of sparrows, Vietnam-like humidity and never-ending doses of “pickin’-and-grinnin'” country music. And it’s probably not a good idea for ex-Californians who flee to Tennessee and other colder-but-cheaper venues to watch the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Eighty-degree weather in Pasadena will be in stark contrast to whatever the temperature is back yonder.

But weather, big bugs and bad food aren’t the only major points of difference between California and other emerging business centers elsewhere. Sad to say, Tennessee and other pirates are touting as strong selling points the very things that we don’t have as much as we need in California. Cheap power, a stable water supply, affordable housing, business-friendly local and regional governments, reasonable environmental management, good public schools and the perception that their streets are safe are just some of the factors that tend to cast those states in a favorable light.

It would be one thing if our only “enemies” were the slick economic development marauders from outside our state’s borders. It just isn’t so. For the most part, we have lost more ground economically to those within our boundaries whose only goal apparently is to shut down the region.

Pogo was right when he proclaimed: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

It was California’s own legislators and a former governor who passed and signed into law the legislation that has thrown this state into the most severe energy crisis in anyone’s memory. That colossal blunder is second only to the inability or outright unwillingness on the part of our state’s various regulatory agencies to foresee the increasing need for more power generation in our state and to allow additional capacity to be built over the past decade.

Speaking of governors and lousy state attitudes, I am reminded of a locally based company that has manufacturing facilities both here and in another Southwestern state. This company employs several hundred workers who make higher-than-average union wages. Years ago, the company announced it was planning to expand one of its plants to provide additional manufacturing capacity and therefore, additional jobs. Within 24 hours of that announcement, the company received two telephone calls. One was from California’s environmental protection agency warning the company that it could not expand because of the state’s onerous air pollution standards. The other call was from the governor of the other state asking the company president what he could do to accommodate the company’s needs in his state.

As if environmental restrictions weren’t enough, there’s the continuing problem of providing additional freeways and roads — roadways already financed by specific taxes and levies. In the 1960s, this country built a space program that took man to the moon in a shorter period of time than it is taking to build the last short leg of state Route 56 across our north city area.

It was and continues to be county boards of supervisors, city councils and other local agencies across our state that pass so-called growth-control ordinances and regulations that, in effect, dare any private venture to create value by developing land or opening new businesses and jobs. When’s the last time an environmental group actually created something of value to others? These groups couldn’t make a BB, much less anything of any substance.

We’ve allowed a tyranny of a very small but noisy group of individuals to threaten the economic viability of our community. There are those who delight every time there is a Stage 3 alert or when a well-planned development is stopped dead in its tracks because it allegedly threatens some speckled bird’s nesting grounds.

Believe it or not, there are even those whose life’s work is apparently nothing more than blocking projects that would regenerate and breath life into our city’s downtown core. Sad to say, they’ve been relatively effective, thanks in large part to a gullible news media that unwittingly supports these special interests by printing and airing every grunt these obstructionists utter.

I’m the last person to criticize news media coverage in general, but there is a difference between genuine news and noise. It’s time for our media to figure out when something is worthy of prominent coverage and when they’re being used as messengers of special interest groups. Perhaps, these so-called “newsmakers” won’t be able to make news if they’re denied the inordinate level of publicity they’re accustomed to receiving.

Who knows, the silencing of these irresponsible obstructionists and naysayers may help us regain our economic footing and prevent the prospect of losing some of our valuable businesses to the green hills of Tennessee.

Jason Hughes is chairman, CEO, and owner of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company with offices across the nation. A pioneer in the field of tenant representation, Jason has exclusively represented tenants and buyers for more than 30 years. Contact Jason at 1-844-662-6635 or jason@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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