Following Gov. Rick Perry's travels to Sacramento earlier this month to promote Texas’ business climate, a California state senator has returned the favor. In a press conference Monday morning in front of the Texas Capitol, California Sen. Ted Gaines said he had "come to capture jobs.”
Gaines advertised California as “a state of innovators and entrepreneurs and job creators,” touting new legislative efforts to make the Golden State more attractive to businesses. Like Perry, he focused in particular on a forthcoming $5 billion battery “gigafactory” Tesla Motors is planning to build in one of five competing states.
Gaines, the California Senate’s Republican caucus chairman, spoke in front of a cardboard cutout of a Tesla electric car — a visual rebuke to Perry, who rode around in one in Sacramento. Despite trying for a couple of weeks, he said, “we could not find a Tesla in Texas” due to the state’s laws banning the kind of manufacturer-to-customer direct sales that Tesla uses.
Tesla has named California and Texas, along with Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, as finalists in the competition to host the gigafactory, which is expected to bring an infusion of capital and about 6,500 jobs into the winning state and is planned for completion in 2017. Though Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently named California — home to Tesla’s headquarters — as a longshot for the factory, Gaines said he believes that status is changing.
California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown are working across the aisle to create an incentives package to try to woo the auto manufacturer, Gaines said, including various tax credits and long-term work to improve the state regulatory and tax climate for all businesses.
Asked whether he was angry that Perry had come to California, Gaines said, “I believe in friendly competition.”
“Gov. Perry is a strong believer in competition and welcomes the comparison between our state’s business climate and California’s,” Perry spokesman Travis Considine wrote in an email. “The Texas approach of low taxes, fair courts, reasonable regulations and a skilled workforce has allowed Texas to create 37 percent of all new private sector jobs in America since 2001. Employers make decisions based on facts and the facts show that Texas has the best business climate in the nation.”
Perry said in March that he believes Texas should take a second look at the “antiquated” rules that have prohibited Tesla sales in the state, Considine added.
At the press conference, Gaines cited California’s “diverse community,” market size, education system and history as “a state of innovation” as attractive qualities for businesses. Uber, the private personal transportation service disrupting the taxi world, and GoPro, the personal camera company that went public last week, are both based in California, he noted.
Gaines, who is running for California insurance commissioner, also emphasized the imperative for California to create more jobs in order to strengthen its middle class, retain its manufacturing base and lift more people out of poverty. “We’re here to break the mold,” he said.
The Capitol press conference wasn’t Gaines’ only stop in Texas: He has meetings scheduled with the National Federation of Independent Business and the Texas Chamber of Commerce, he said, and is traveling to Dallas tomorrow.
Though it is not uncommon for state leaders to court businesses outside their borders, Perry is considered among the most aggressive in doing so. Before his Tesla trip this month, he had previously traveled to California and Illinois and bought advertising time in several states. His recruitment tactics have not always met with warm receptions: A 2013 trip to California prompted Brown to scorn Perry’s moves as “barely a fart.”
Gaines told The Texas Tribune it “remains to be seen” whether he will promote California’s business climate elsewhere after his Texas tour, where he is focusing on the Tesla gigafactory.