California sends tomorrow’s technology, Hollywood blockbusters and terrific pinot noir to the world. Now the governors of Utah and Virginia want the Golden State to export more of something else: jobs.
To make that pitch to California businesses, Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert and Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell, both Republicans, have scheduled joint stops beginning Thursday in Orange County, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
They intend to position their states as antidotes to California’s high taxes, notorious red tape and roller-coaster state finances.
In other words, they want job-rich companies to say goodbye to Santa Monica and Palo Alto and hello to Provo and Arlington.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, won’t be around when the governors descend on his state; he’s on a previously planned trade mission to China.
The visiting governors say Brown shouldn’t be surprised or offended by their trip because competition among states for jobs is so fierce.
“There are people coming to Virginia all the time looking for jobs, too,” McDonnell said in an interview. “States competing with each other is a healthy thing.”
Governors across the country routinely entice businesses to move or expand into their states. Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent several days in California trying to lure away companies.
But it’s unusual for governors from states with different economic profiles and statehouses 2,100 miles apart to tag-team another state. Not coincidentally, the visits come a few months after Utah and Virginia were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Forbes magazine’s annual list of the best states for conducting business.
It also follows a period in which California — by itself the world’s ninth largest economy — lost luster. The 9.6 percent unemployment rate remains among the nation’s worst, vestiges of the housing crash linger, and its credit rating is one of the shakiest among states. Stockton, with a population of nearly 300,000, recently became the largest city in the country to file for bankruptcy protection.
In addition, California businesses are sounding a common refrain: Heavy-handed regulation and weighty taxes slow growth and profit.
The state “is where you go to expand the economy in other states,” lamented state Assemblyman Dan Logue, a Republican who is friendly with Perry and supported his 2012 presidential run.
Despite its recent troubles, California’s economy has showed encouraging signs. It added more than 300,000 jobs in the past year. That’s a 2.1 percent gain, outpacing national job growth of 1.5 percent.