Friday, March 13, 2015

Why Racism is Unprofitable

Would you open a high-tech company in a State where your employees might get lynched?

Oklahoma is in the news these days for two reasons, neither of them very good.   First, as you know, the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was disbanded after a video surfaced of the members chanting about lynching blacks and reinstating SAE's all-white membership policy.

That didn't work out so well for those kids, did it?  As I noted in an earlier posting, racism simply doesn't work on a personal level.   Incidents such as this illustrate how the smart phone has really changed our lives.  There is no such thing any more as doing things behind closed doors, so long as someone has a smart phone around.  And perhaps this form of transparency is a good thing.

On another front, the State is continuing the battle against Gay Marriage by proposing to eliminate all civil ceremonies and placing all power to marry with clergy.  It seems that Oklahoma just can't let go of the past.

It is a funny thing, but the largest industry in "Red State" and "Small Government" Oklahoma is.... wait for this, it is precious..... Government.

The largest industry in Oklahoma is government!

This is sort of shocking news from a Red State.   But taking government aside, you can see that the entire economy is based on natural resources:

Oil & Gas$4,292,554
General Contractors$1,024,390
Lawyers/Law Firms$780,818
Commercial Banks$553,199
Misc Finance$539,282
Real Estate$493,733
Health Professionals$478,509

Note the lack of manufacturing, electronics, Internet, or anything technology-related in this chart.  Oklahoman's make their money by whatever they can dig out out of the ground, grow from the ground, selling the ground itself, or catering to retirees.  This is not an economy on the cutting edge.

Now, say you had a high-tech company, doing Internet whatnot or designing semiconductor circuits.   Half your Engineers have names like Singh, Yang, or Abdul.   This is typical in the tech industry - we hire a lot of help from overseas.   And other employees might be of a more liberal bent, or perhaps have a domestic partner.

And say you are looking for a new location for your company - some place with a lower cost of living, tax breaks, and lower facilities costs.  

Would you pick Oklahoma?  Or more precisely, if you did, would your employees want to move there?   Because what would happen if you announced such a move is that half your workforce would update their resumes and go to work for your competitor.

I faced this choice early in life.  Back in the 1980's, before I went to work for the Patent Office, I looked around for jobs as an Electrical Engineer.   I had years of experience at Carrier wiring up test control rooms and instrumenting and testing air conditioning systems. I also had experience in designing control circuits for air conditioners. I got a job offer from an outfit in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Now Arkansas has some beautiful spots, such as Hebert Springs.   But Fort Smith isn't one of them.  Try as I might, I could not see myself living there, even if the cost of living was low.   And yes, the sort of racist and redneck attitudes of the population were a factor.  I took the job with the Patent Office instead.

Racism and other forms of backward-thinking is not just bad for you personally, it's bad for business, too.  Because people of all colors and stripes are your customers as well as your employees, and you can't be a racist company and succeed, for the long haul.


This article about Alabama's xenophobic immigration policies gone awry is almost humorous:

But since those type of assembly plants employ low-skill local hourly workers (the Canton Mississippi Nissan plant pays about $15.50 an hour, for part-time workers), they don't have to worry about scaring away high-tech workers.

Might want to send a driver to pick up the boss from the airport next time!

After reading this article about an elected official in Arkansas:

Would you be inclined to open a factory there?