Daniel Massey of Crain’s recounts an annecdote told him by New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffey in August (Crain’s-8/24/11.) It concerns the genesis of a newly appointed panel of corporate leaders who will spearhead a campaign called “New York Open For Business.”
Apparently Lt. Gov. Duffey read a newspaper article last January about an Illinois chief executive who wanted to relocate his company due to Illinois’ infamously hostile-to-business state government. Massey reports Mr. Duffey swinging into action and immediately getting the CEO on the phone. He says, “I mentioned I was calling on behalf of Governor Cuomo in NY State and that we wanted him to consider coming to New York. He actually laughed in my face.”
This annecdote highlights New York’s image problem. Why should the Illinois CEO jump from the frying pan into the fire? Or at least into another frying pan?
The solution New York is offering to this conundrum is a prestigious blue ribbon panel, appointed by Andrew Cuomo, to craft a new, business friendly image for New York. Sounds great, no? The only problem is that New York does not fundamentally face a PR problem. It faces a real problem, a problem of essence. Oh sure, PR can help, but what is needed is a total revamping of public policy, not a superficial papering over and attempt to hide from potential entrepreneurs the uncongenial nature of the New York business trop.
What such a panel could truthfully say is only (perhaps) that it’s better here than in Illinois or California or New Jersey. It can only pretty up the image of an increasingly gangrenous business atmosphere—of out of control unions, high taxes, budget deficits, tort lawyers, and bureaucratic obfuscation. Such a blue ribbon panel is like putting wallpaper over a large hole in the wall. Or like the opening scene in David Lynch‘s movie Blue Velvet, where the camera pans down from an idyllic suburban lawn to a rotting, bug-ridden under layer.
I noticed half of the people on this blue ribbon panel are marketers and the other half are representatives of big business. The people who are most undermined by our governmental reality are small businesses, whether incipient or extant, with no presence at all on this panel.
Entrepreneurs are ultimately not fools. They will logically go to states that consciously structure policy and governmental support to their businesses. This panel will not change that.
When you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.