Joe Epstein: Corporate Departures

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A spate of departures from the Bay Area by large corporations has Joe Epstein worried about the future of business in the Golden State.

Homegrown corporations are leaving the Bay Area at an alarming pace. As a local businessman, I ponder what can be done to halt this exodus. Hewlett Packard, Charles Schwab, Oracle, Tesla and McKesson are highly visible names that have recently announced their departures. Also on the radar are Levi Strauss, Chevron, Visa and Uber.

Part of the problem is the inhospitable business attitude that has steadily been growing in the Bay Area. For example, several recent San Francisco ballot measures are viewed by local businesses as fiscally punitive. One example is Proposition F, which imposes a tax overhaul with a steep impact on the cost of doing business.

In addition, recruitment of talented employees is increasingly more difficult due to quality-of-life issues. Many employees send their kids to our public schools, which rank only 37th in the nation, and then commute for hours because of the high cost of housing. Elsewhere, housing costs are substantially less, and 10 states have no tax on personal income, which amounts to an immediate raise for most California wage earners.

This recent departure of many legacy companies is concerning. Big business is an important engine of local economic development. Nearly 340,000 workers are employed by the 100 largest companies in the Bay Area. They also contribute to our communities in other ways. As a board member of several Bay Area nonprofits, I have seen first-hand the leadership and financial support provided by large corporations to these organizations.

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Although many homegrown companies have flourished over the past decade, the region is losing its luster, and, indeed, its competitive edge. It benefits all of us, if the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would extend a hospitable hand to our business community. Silicon Valley spokesperson Carl Guardino has observed: “Companies go where they're wanted, and they stay where they're appreciated.” Let’s encourage large companies to remain in the Golden State rather than to seek greener and cheaper pastures in Texas and elsewhere.

With a Perspective, I am Joe Epstein.

Joe Epstein is president of a steel trading company in San Francisco.