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California shouldn’t be crowing, nor should Texas be eating crow
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Elon Musk knows how to pick a winner.

And while the man behind Tesla and SpaceX among other things has never ignored a massive tax credit dangled in front of him that he didn’t like, one wasn’t needed for him to make a decision that is being ignored by those that loathe California.

Musk is locating his global engineering headquarters in California.

More precisely it is in Palo Alto, roughly midway between Silicon Gulch in San Francisco and San Jose that is the anchor of Silicon Valley.

This comes less than  two years after Musk moved his corporate headquarters to Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott back then was giving himself high fives while making  sure he slammed California as a hideous place to do business.

California haters far and wide joined in like a pack of rabid hyenas.

You know the ones.

They go into convulsions in their rush to celebrate the fact that for the first time in state’s 172-year history California actually lost population.

They conveniently ignore  the fact there are still 39.24 million Californians.

But what do you expect from those who mistake quantity for quality.

If low cost housing was the motivating factor for where people lived, Texas would have surpassed the Golden State in population decades ago.

As an aside, some parts of the Lone Star State — and other states where there are people that act like they can’t wait to dance on California’s proverbial grave — are experiencing what they once described as “Californication”.

No, that’s not a reference to the decadent lifestyles alluded to in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song of the same name.

Instead, it is how the influx of Californians — along with their values — have impacted nearby western states such as Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada.

That runs the usual gamut from — you guessed it — rising housing prices, traffic congestion, and increased cost of living.

 But is also includes a wider array of values that are about as foreign to Texas as are 300-foot plus redwood trees.

The one thing California can’t export — or expatriates take with them when they flee — is its wide repertoires of geography and climate. More about that later.

Right now, let’s zero in on what the Tesla decision means. 

California shouldn’t be crowing.

Nor should Texas be eating crow.

That’s because Musk made his decision based on specific needs of his companies.

And the biggest need of an innovative company are people who are also innovative, gravitate toward challenges instead of well-worn paths, and gain their inspiration from where they are.

The global epicenter for tech innovations for decades has been — and continues to be — the San Francesco Bay Area.

But it’s not just “tech” as defined by today’s world that California has help take to new heights

The list includes agriculture, aviation, movies/entertainment, aerospace, and green energy to name a few.

None of the aforementioned got their start here. However, they were taken to new heights by California.

Yes, some have all but completely fled the state such as airplane builders.

But even in aviation California provides the lion’s share of the dreamers that are needed not to keep doing the same-old, same-old or marginally improve on existing technology but to dream of things thought by many to be impossible.

Yes, innovation happens elsewhere across the nation. But when it comes to crucial mass synergy, California is a tough act to follow.

Tesla is keeping its paper pushers in Texas. Meanwhile, there will be 1,400 employees at the global engineering headquarters in a former Hewlett Packard headquarters building in Palo Alto.

There are still 67,000 other workers in California the bulk of which are at the Fremont assembly plant and operations such as parts manufacturing in Lathrop.

The fact a start-up auto company sprung up in California to take on the Big Three and their counterparts around the globe has everything to do with what Texas says is wrong about California — its business climate.

The NUMNI plant — the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota in Fremont that the two auto giants eventually abandoned — wouldn’t have been available if California hadn’t been chasing out traditional manufacturing concerns due to rules and regulations as well as taxes.

But let’s be honest. The taxes aren’t as big a problem as the rules and regulations part as they create unknowns and unanticipated variables that can prove costly.

Do not misunderstand. This is not a wholesale indictment of California’s regulatory bureaucracy.

After all, the bureaucracy has overseen and implemented incredibly innovate ways of delivering basic needs such as water and healthier air. What regulations have done so far just for air quality in the San Joaquin Valley since 1990 is epic.

California is not the promised land for most manufacturing concerns.

It is why Tesla passed over California and opted to build its gigafactory for battery manufacturing in Sparks, Nevada.

It was the right place for Tesla to build a battery factory.

Just like Texas is the right place for its corporate headquarters and California is the right place for the brains and soul of its operations in the form of their global engineering headquarters.

The question, of course, is why California?

Based on how the United States grew across the continent, is literally is the edge of the last frontier.

But it’s much more than that.

California, as defined by those who drew up imaginary boundaries, is as much a state of mind as it is a political subdivision.

That’s because within those boundaries they tied up arguably the most interesting and inspiring collection of terrain, natural wonders, geological formations, and varied soil within what is today the United States. You could also make the case its unparalleled on the planet.

It is why California has grown.

That might be a bit of California boosterism, but compared to the other 50 imagery subdivisions of land we call states, it is unapparelled.

At the same time, California conceit, for whatever reason, seems to be a lot weaker compared to let’s say Texas conceit.

Do not misunderstand. Californians do brag about what is here —at least sometimes.

But the reason it doesn’t consume us is because “us” is changing at a faster pace than elsewhere in America.

The melting pot analogy doesn’t quite fit California. Although we have our warts and abscesses, what California has been cooking up over the last 172 years is more of a stew. It’s not a place where everyone becomes homogenous.

Instead, it is  more like a stew where everything comes together to make the experience all that much better with each ingredient complementing the other.

The phase “melting pot” implies blending all ingredients down until they become an undisguisable paste.

California is anything but that.

It is why people can dream big here.

And it is why we often find ourselves on the edge.

Some see that edge as a threat and an unsafe place with the price it requires too steep to afford.

Others see the edge as being a frontier to opening new horizons and possibilities.

That can happen anywhere.

But it is hard to replicate it — for better or worse — at the level it is in California.

The process is far from perfect.  The stew we are creating sometimes burns too hot, can be a sloppy mess, and requires a lot of patience. It also needs a willingness to try new things by experimenting with added flavors.

As such, California is the place where the future of Tesla — and many other cutting edge technologies — arguably will best be forged.

Texas is just fine. But there is a different level available in California.

Synergy counts.

As does inspiration.