By Peter Rex
The West Coast’s high cost of living is measured not only in dollars but in stifling conformity.
I’m moving my business headquarters off the West Coast. We tried San Francisco. We tried the Seattle area. Both were wonderful in their own ways, especially in natural beauty and personal friendships. But both have become hostile to the principles and policies that enable people to live abundantly in the broadest sense.
That’s why my company is in the final stages of purchasing office space in Austin, Texas. By the end of the year, I hope to move dozens of employees to the Lone Star State and to be ready to hire hundreds more. While uprooting a big part of a billion-dollar company isn’t easy, the decision to move to Texas wasn’t hard. Our staff and their families will be able to flourish to a much greater extent.
Leaving the West Coast might seem strange for a company focused on tech ventures and related investments. It’s true that the company has benefited greatly from the larger pool of forward thinkers and industry disrupters in the tech hot spots of San Francisco and Seattle. But the best places to be in tech have now become some of the worst places to raise a family, practice a faith, or even think freely. This hurts my team and the business.
These areas are culturally diverse but increasingly monolithic in terms of ideology. In the past few weeks, radical protesters took over a portion of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The mood in the area was that this experiment in anarchy was acceptable and even praiseworthy. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan even issued a statement commending the “First Amendment activities” of the occupiers.
The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been similarly disheartening. The West Coast’s progressive policy makers imposed some of the nation’s most regressive lockdown measures. While their one-size-fits-all approach may have worked for those with flexible jobs and few other commitments, they utterly neglected the millions of employees who couldn’t work from home, the families that needed to get out of the house, and the religious believers who wanted nothing more than to worship. Those concerns were treated as secondary.
Even in normal times, San Francisco and Seattle go to great lengths to make life hard for families. Both cities, with governments dominated by cryptosocialists, are notorious for enacting policies that raise the price of housing, drive out jobs and punish innovative companies in ways that hurt workers. With the Seattle area as a whole becoming more radical on economics by the year, it seems foolish to hope that the situation will improve for my company’s workers and their families.
Perhaps my biggest concern is that the region’s political orthodoxy has left little room for religious belief. In both San Francisco and Seattle, many of our Christian and Muslim friends and employees have expressed concern that their deeply held views are being driven from the public square. They worry that stating their views publicly will lead to being shunned or attacked. It has been disheartening to learn how closed the most “open” minds can be.
I’ve talked with many entrepreneurs in California, Washington and Oregon who have encountered similar issues. Most aren’t sure how to respond. Generally, the amount of tech talent and funding on the coast leads them to conclude that they have no choice but to stay put and stay silent.
I reject that answer. The biggest talent pool in the world doesn’t matter if the ocean that surrounds it is intellectually shallow. If a business is based in a place that expects social and political conformity, then innovation will falter eventually, because it depends on pushing the boundaries. And if our people find it hard to flourish in every aspect of their lives, then the company will struggle in the long run. I think that as the West Coast becomes more insular and exclusive, other parts of the country will become the biggest drivers of tech innovation.
That’s why we’re leaving the West Coast and heading to Texas. When it comes to talent, we’re confident we can attract the best without finding the same homogeneity of views. When it comes to housing, families making $100,000 to $200,000 a year can afford a good-size place. The policy environment in Texas encourages risk-taking and rewards workers. When it comes to schools, there are plenty of great options that don’t confuse indoctrination with education. And on matters of faith and morals, religious belief doesn’t make you a social outcast. In Texas, the quintessential American ideals of family, faith and freedom still reign supreme.
Will it be tough to make this move? You bet. But heading to Texas is the right thing to do for my team and their families, and their outpouring of support has been telling. They want to be in a place where they can live to the fullest extent. And I’m convinced that the sooner they are, the stronger the company will be.
Mr. Rex is founder and CEO of Rex Teams, a tech, investment and real-estate firm.