The recent exit of some very high-profile technology companies has many Californians wondering about the reasons for the exodus: are these companies are leaving California for their own reasons, or because state policies are driving them away?
The answer is critical for the next generation of Latino entrepreneurs and business executives.
With the important efforts of organizations like the Campaign for College Opportunity, Latino students in California are making progress in the effort to gain high quality jobs in the technology and corporate sector. According to the Campaign, “a growing number of Latino students are graduating from high school, are college ready, and a record number – over 1.3 million – are enrolled in community colleges and universities.” Buoyed by the progress, Latino parents encouraging their children to build their own business, pursue high quality job opportunities, and take advantage of the California’s dominant technology sector.
But just when Latino families are beginning to see opportunities in technology open for their children, those opportunities may be moving to Texas, North Carolina, or other states, leaving our diverse, highly qualified workers behind or worse, taking our workers with them.
If we value our progress toward creating a new generation of Latino entrepreneurs and executives, the Latino and business communities and state policymakers must jointly commit to a series of immediate action to stop California’s tech-xodus.
First, the state should facilitate compliance with California’s complex, confusing environmental, workplace and operational laws, rather than imposing “bounty hunter”-type fines designed to capture additional state funding. Businesses are wary of maintaining a long-term presence in a state that is perceived to prioritize fines and penalties over keeping businesses here.
Second, the Legislature must stop passing laws designed to punish tech business and instead work with those companies to develop policies that achieve important policy goals. Regulatory efforts around policies such as privacy, independent contractor status, and copyright regulation should pay more attention to the concerns of small business. Enacting far-reaching policies may please activist groups but also result in many unintended consequences – specifically job loss, business flight and the loss of opportunity.
Equally troubling is the plethora of lawsuits that California is bringing against some of our biggest employers. Unlike other states that help their hometown industries, California officials seem eager to file legal actions, such as anti-trust and unfair business practice lawsuits.
Rather than issuing self-congratulatory press releases each week celebrating the fact that California is attempting to bring the hammer down on its most prolific employers or industry sectors, the state must revisit its legal approach to business. Of course, bad actors should be held accountable, but the state should also work with California companies to resolve business issues and allow those employers to be competitive with other national and international companies. Filing more lawsuits against California companies should be viewed as a failure, not the successful record of a public servant.
Finally, as we move toward COVID recovery, the state should consider pumping the brakes on imposing new regulations that will make job growth and recovery even harder. The state does not have to relax any environmental or health rules that are currently in place or retreat from any goals that have been established, but adding regulations that impose new costs is just tantamount to sending jobs out of state. If a new law is that important that it needs to be done now, the California Legislature needs to find a business cost reduction to offset the cost increase.
According to the University of California, for the first time there are more Latino freshmen in the University of California system than any other racial or ethnic group. Just as Latino students are beginning to claim their share of the state’s technology jobs, we don’t need those jobs and businesses leaving the state. When business leaders, Latino leaders and policymakers commit to changes to allow the next generation of Latino students to follow that path, the tech-xodus will slow, and all of us will benefit.
Julian Cañete is president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.