Chicago Uses Social Issues To Encourage Businesses To Leave Texas For years Texas tried to lure businesses to locate there from other states. Now, Chicago is using a new Texas abortion ban and other social issues to recruit businesses from the Lone Star state.

Opposed To The New Abortion Ban In Texas? Chicago Says Move On Up To The North

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Texas has long tried to lure businesses away from other states, including California and Illinois, with the promise of lower taxes. Now the city of Chicago is returning the favor. The new Texas abortion ban and other social issues are being used to recruit businesses away from the Lone Star State.

NPR's David Schaper is in Chicago with more.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: For years, red Texas has been airing ads like this one attacking the business climate in blue states.

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RICK PERRY: Because of tax-and-spend policies and liberal leadership, jobs and opportunities are fleeing to places like Texas.

SCHAPER: This 2014 commercial, starring former Republican Governor Rick Perry, promoted the state's low taxes and light regulations to draw businesses looking to expand or relocate. But now Chicago is firing back over social issues, taking out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News that starts by saying, dear Texas, there were always more than 100 reasons why Chicago is a great place for business; now we'd like to highlight a few more.

MICHAEL FASSNACHT: We in Chicago, we believe in science to fight COVID. We believe in peoples' right to vote. And we believe in protecting reproductive rights.

SCHAPER: Michael Fassnacht is CEO of World Business Chicago, the city's nonprofit economic development arm which created the ad.

FASSNACHT: If you believe similar things and have the same values, you might want to consider Chicago to start your career, to start your company or to relocate.

SCHAPER: Fassnacht doesn't expect a convoy of moving vans with Texas plates rolling down Lakeshore Drive anytime soon. But he says social issues like abortion rights, voting rights and racial justice are increasingly important to the employees companies now need.

FASSNACHT: And I think business leaders nowadays understand. They don't have the political - but on key social issues, they probably have to take a stand because their talent pool, their employee base want to know.

SCHAPER: A recent poll by the firm PerryUndem finds that nearly two-thirds of college-educated workers say the new Texas abortion law would discourage them from taking a job there. But in an interview earlier this month on CNBC, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dismissed such hand-wringing.

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GREG ABBOTT: The people who are not wringing their hands are the people who create jobs, that run businesses, that care about their daily lives. And people are choosing Texas over any other state.

SCHAPER: Indeed, Texas continues to lead the nation in corporate relocations. But will it last?

Economist Ray Perryman heads an economic research firm based in Waco.

RAY PERRYMAN: I don't expect you to see a sudden mass exodus, you know? I think - I don't expect Chicago to run a couple ads in the paper and all of a sudden companies leave Texas in droves.

SCHAPER: But, Perryman says, over time, such laws, like the abortion ban, will make it more difficult for Texas employers to attract and retain top talent.

PERRYMAN: Increasingly, particularly among companies that use a lot of knowledge workers, that group overwhelmingly - about 86% - oppose these types of policies. They're mobile. They're the single most important resource for these large companies that are high-growth technology companies.

SCHAPER: Adam Bruns is managing editor of Site Selection magazine, which tracks where companies choose to move and grow. He says while some states have lost expansions due to social issue policies, that's not always the case.

ADAM BRUNS: When the, quote, unquote, "bathroom bill" surfaced in North Carolina, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang over that. A lot of company investments went ahead anyway.

SCHAPER: Bruns says, while public policies on social issues can factor in to business location decisions, it's only one consideration, along with taxes, infrastructure and access to markets and supply chains. But as far as Chicago advertising to Texans that it has more liberal laws on abortion rights and other issues, that, Bruns says, is fair game.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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