Governor Jay Inslee was sworn into office less than a month ago.
Is it time for him to take a roadtrip?
I bring this up after reading about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s crusade in California, a controversial jobs campaign in which he’s touting Texas by slamming California.
“Building a business is tough. But I hear building a business in California is next to impossible,” Perry says in a radio ad airing across California. “See why our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas.”
Now, you can take those remarks with a grain of salt — especially from the guy who infamously forgot which branch of the federal government he wanted to eliminate in last year’s presidential debate. (It was the Department of Energy by the way). Perry also seems to forget that some of the world’s most valuable companies — Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, etc. — call California home.
Nonetheless, Perry is in California this week — telling the story of Texas. He’s trying to lure companies which might be dissatisfied with the economic climate in the most populous state, a state where income taxes on the wealthy were increased through a voter-approved initiative last November.
Well, guess what state also doesn’t have an income tax? That’s right. Good old Washington.
Now, you can debate whether an income tax is a good thing or not — a polarizing issue that divided the state’s tech community over I-1098. (The initiative, which would have imposed an income tax on the state’s wealthiest residents, was soundly defeated in November 2010).
But, as it stands now, there is no income tax. And that’s an advantage that the state can use to attract new businesses. This is not a pipe dream. We’ve seen it play out as recently as last week when California’s Flowroute picked Seattle for its new headquarters (in part because of the tax benefits).
We’ve also seen the arrival of a bevy of California tech giants in recents years — from eBay and Facebook to Splunk and Zynga — which have established growing engineering offices in the Seattle area.
With that backdrop, I propose this to newly-appointed Governor Inslee: Hit the road.
Tell Washington’s story. Tout the region as place that’s open for innovative businesses — and is also a cool place to live. (Sorry, Texas, we’ve got you beat on that front).
Now, I am not saying Perry’s in-your-face approach is the best tactic. It does grab headlines — especially when Gov. Jerry Brown dismisses the remarks as “barely a fart.”
But there’s some momentum here in Washington state, and there’s a story to tell. And it’s much more than the nascent clean tech industry — a favorite industry of Inslee’s. (I’ve probably heard him mention the Marysville solar panel maker Silicon Energy two dozen times).
Inslee did a good job of laying the groundwork for Washington’s story in his inaugural address when he noted: “Innovation is in our genes. We create. We invent. We build.”
We have a spirit of innovation here in Washington that has changed the world, from aerospace to software to e-commerce. And you know what? We are not done. A new world economy is emerging from the depths of this recession. While its contours and relationships are not fully understood to us, we do know two things:
One: With our uniquely powerful fusion of values and talents, Washington state has the potential to lead the next wave of world changing innovations.Two: The world will not wait for us. We face fierce and immediate global competition for the jobs of tomorrow. Leading this next wave of growth is our opportunity, not our entitlement. We must move, swiftly and boldly, to put this recession behind us and bring forward a unique economic strategy that brings the best of Washington state to the world.
A great message.
But that was preaching to the hometown crowd. That message needs to go beyond Olympia, and it needs to happen now. Inslee has a chance in his first days in office to make a mark — plant a flag in the sand as the country’s “high-tech” or “innovation” governor. It’s a political opportunity, and Inslee can seize it if he chooses to do so.
We’ve certainly got more going on than Texas, don’t we? People just need to hear about it in Silicon Valley and Singapore and San Antonio.