Look on the Sunny Side? Getting Harder to Do in California

A commentary from Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, commenting at the MPowered blog, “Why Not California #8: More solar companies producing elsewhere to sell to California.”

It looks like Tennessee just attracted a $1 billion solar manufacturing facility and 500 accompanying jobs from a German solar firm, Wacker Chemie, and an Associated Press story hints that the Volunteer state put up a $50 million incentive package to recruit the high wage company.  This news adds to a previously announced $1.2 billion investment from another solar firm, Hemlock Semiconductor, looking to produce solar products in Clarksville, Tennessee

Why is it that little old unsophisticated Tennessee can attract $2.2 billion in solar power investments and the home of solar and other green power mandates can sit and watch its unemployment numbers skyrocket to the country’s third worst rate – 10.1 percent – and leave behind an economy-altering number of manufacturing jobs.  Didn’t Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Assembly Speaker Nunez promise that California’s global warming mandate would create tens of thousands of new green jobs in the Golden State.  And didn’t the California Air Resources Board in its economic analysis of AB 32 say that “implementing the recommended measures will have an overall positive impact on economic growth in California”?  Peer reviews shot many holes in the analysis and disputed AB 32’s “riskless free-lunch” and now we’ve seen states such as Tennessee, Oregon and Nevada begin to attract these very high wage manufacturing jobs and create hundreds of green careers for their working families.

Could one of the main answers be that business costs are so high in California that we will never see significant green investments; that workers in other states will be the chief beneficiaries of California’s environmental mandates and that California’s brightest and best are fleeing to states that put a high priority on economic growth.  The latest cost of doing business survey by the Milken Institute finds that operating costs for California manufacturers are 38 percent higher than for their competitors in Tennessee.  Is it any wonder that investments in industries that create high wage jobs routinely bypass California.

The climate IS changing in California, and changing for the worse. Unfortunately, it’s the business climate.

As you might guess, Jack’s post is one of a continuing series. Here’s another: “Why Not California #7: California-based company banking on Las Vegas solar manufacturing

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