Texas' Rick Perry takes jobs fight to Jerry Brown's home turf

Sacramento BeeFebruary 8, 2013 

As the Rick Perry-Jerry Brown spitting match entered its fourth day, the Republican governor of Texas announced Thursday that he will travel to California to recruit businesses from the Golden State.

Perry has visited several times before, but never with so much attention. His office released a radio ad criticizing California's business climate earlier this week, and Brown's effort to dismiss the affront was so tart – "It's barely a fart," he said – it only perpetuated the publicity.

"Perry's getting exactly what he wanted," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said on KQED radio's "Forum" program on Thursday. "He's getting all kinds of press up and down the state, and why? Well, because he's leaning in. He's in the game. He's getting in our heads."

Perry, a former presidential hopeful, is far from the first governor to boast of poaching businesses from another state, nor is he the first Republican to please a conservative constituency with jabs at liberal California.

It is unclear, however, how beneficial Perry's visit will be to Texas' overall economic prospects.

Business relocations are relatively rare, and from 1992 to 2006, they contributed to just 1 percent of all job gains and 1.7 percent of all job losses in California, according a Public Policy Institute of California study released in 2010.

Thousands of Californians do move each year to Texas, though the number has declined. About 57,000 Californians left California to live in Texas during 2011, compared with 85,000 who made the same move in 2006, according to census figures.

The net loss of residents to Texas – those leaving California for Texas minus those coming from there to California – fell from about 36,000 to about 21,000 over the same period.

Those who left California to pursue opportunities in Texas were, in general, at the lower end of California's income scale.

For instance, the average household income of Californians who left for Texas in 2010 was about $49,000, compared with $61,000 for those who stayed, according to the latest data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Part of that disparity was due to the fact that many who left were young people or young families whose best earning years were in front of them. Adults who left California for Texas were slightly more likely to have at least a bachelor's degree than those who stayed.

Yet many of those who left California for Texas did not find immediate success. The unemployment rate for those who left California for Texas in 2011 was about 16 percent, compared with 12 percent among those who stayed in California.

Perry's office said the Republican governor will leave Texas on Sunday for stops in San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Orange County, returning to his state on Wednesday.

The trip includes no public events, but meetings with "business leaders in the high tech, biotechnology, financial, insurance and film industries" are planned, according to a prepared statement.

"The full-court press is on, as far as that's concerned," said Joseph Vranich, an Orange County-based business relocation consultant and commentator. "It isn't just Texas. … Right now, I would say about 15 states are visiting California in one way or another seeking to interest businesses in either relocating there entirely or, if they stay here, choosing their states to expand."

Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said the "direct effect" of Perry's meetings with business people is likely to be small.

"I can't imagine any smart businessperson making a decision solely on Rick Perry's say-so," Pitney said. "But the indirect effect might be noteworthy, because the exchange between the two governors highlights the differences between California and Texas."

In Perry's radio ad, he cheers his state's "low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system." Brown promotes California's green energy industries, and he has criticized Texas for its relatively large percentage of people working at or below the minimum wage.

The row between Brown and Perry will likely subside once Perry returns to Texas next week.

Perry's radio ad has only about $24,000 behind it, and it is scheduled to run for only one week. Brown said the relatively small ad buy suggests it is only a gimmick.

The ad buy and Perry's trip are being paid for by TexasOne, a public-private partnership promoting Texas as a business destination, Perry's office said.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said one of the companies Perry is likely to visit is Oxnard-based Haas Automation Inc. Gorell said the manufacturer is considering an expansion and has been in talks with Texas officials. He's hoping the California governor will get more engaged.

"I'm going to defend what I can, to defend these jobs," Gorell said. "The challenge is, I need more firepower."

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