CALIFORNIA — California is home to some of the world’s largest and best-known corporations, from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. But in 2021, the number of companies that decided to leave for other states trended upward.
In the first six months of the year, 74 companies moved headquarters out of California, according to an August report by the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. That exceeded the total number of moves in 2020, the report said. The number was likely undercounted because not all relocations were public, especially for smaller companies, according to the report.
The majority of companies that moved, such as automaker Tesla, relocated to Texas. Tesla CEO Elon Musk cited the rising cost of housing in the Bay Area as a factor in moving headquarters from Palo Alto.
“It’s tough for people to afford houses, and people have to come in from far away,” Musk said at the company shareholder’s meeting, where he announced the move, according to CNBC. “There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area.”
The Hoover Institution’s study identified “high tax rates, punitive regulations, high labor costs, high utility and energy costs, and declining quality of life for many Californians which reflects the cost of living and housing affordability” as reasons companies move from the state.
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“The data presented here show that headquarter relocations are accelerating substantially, with no sign of reversing course, reflecting a California business environment that ranks near the bottom of all U.S. states in many dimensions, including taxes, regulations, litigation costs, labor costs, energy and utility costs, and employee cost of living,” the report said.
Between early 2018 and June 2021, 272 companies moved headquarters to other states, according to the Hoover Institution.
But some experts and elected officials were unconcerned.
“I think folks have been complaining about California’s hostile business environment for decades, and that certainly hasn’t prevented the state from being one of the biggest economies in the world and attracting entrepreneurs and businesses for decades,” Molly Turner, a lecturer on business and public policy at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said to KQED.
Similarly, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who leads the largest city in Silicon Valley, believes the narrative of a California exodus is overhyped.
“The story of the tech exodus is probably a bit overplayed and, in some ways, it’s underplayed,” Liccardo said to ABC7. “It’s overplayed, because I talked to tech leaders every day who are telling me, ‘look, we’re not going anywhere any more than we ever have.’ It’s underplayed in the sense that this has been going on for a while.”
In response to Tesla moving and Musk’s comments, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that California’s environment helped lead to the company’s success.
“Our regulatory environment helped create that company and grow that company,” Newsom said at a news briefing in October, according to Bloomberg. “I have reverence and deep respect for that individual. But I also have deep reverence and respect for this state, and what we’ve done.”
Los Angeles and San Francisco counties saw the highest number of departures: 54 and 47, respectively. Orange County (29) and Santa Clara County (28) were next, with Alameda County (20) rounding out the top five.
The California Policy Center, a conservative think tank, listed nearly 50 companies and celebrities who left California in 2021 in a spreadsheet titled “The California Book of Exoduses.” More than half of the companies chose Texas.