Governor Rick Perry, working with a group of closely allied business leaders, has raised more than $2 million to finance his travels to lure jobs to Texas. So far, he hasn’t brought one back.
Starting with a four-day trip to California in February, Perry has traveled to Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and New York to urge businesses and residents to move to the Lone Star state. Texas added more than 30 percent of the nation’s new jobs over the past decade because it doesn’t tax personal or corporate income and avoids excessive regulation and frivolous lawsuits, Perry tells broadcast audiences.
Attracting free publicity helps Perry keep his name in the news as he considers another bid for the presidency, said California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who visited Perry in 2011 to learn about Texas’s economic development strategies. Perry plans to leave office in January 2015 after 14 years leading the second-most-populous state.
“I don’t see any hard data that show his trips have had any impact other than getting Governor Perry a lot of attention,” Newsom said. “There’s a little Barnum and Bailey here.”
Perry can’t identify expansions tied to the trips this year because it’s too soon for companies to make such decisions, said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman. All six states Perry targeted are led by Democratic governors and have higher taxes and burdensome rules, she said.
“It’s always going to make some people uncomfortable when another governor comes into their state, but he does it civilly,” she said.
Most governors emphasize growth of existing businesses, which leads to more job growth than relocations, said Mac Holladay, an Atlanta consultant who led economic development departments in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.
“Trying to lure businesses by using trips to other states isn’t unique to Rick Perry, but he may be doing it in a more ham-handed way,” said former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat who now runs his own consulting firm.
“He’s done a good job on transportation and economic development,” said Rendell. “Other than that, I think he’s nuts.”
Perry spoke to Missouri’s chamber of commerce as ads on St. Louis and Kansas City television stations criticized the state’s tax policy. The chamber didn’t know about the ads when it agreed to host Perry, spokeswoman Karen Bushman said.
Governor Jay Nixon called the chamber of commerce’s meeting a “direct contravention of the purposes of that organization, which is to enhance and support Missouri businesses,” according to a statement.
Perry is expanding his promotion of low taxes and limited regulation through Americans for Economic Freedom, a new tax-exempt group whose directors include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and August Busch III, ex-chairman of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.
TexasOne has raised the ante to pay for Perry’s barnstorming. While donations topped out at $75,000 annually through 2012, two companies — Ryan LLC, a Dallas-based tax adviser, and North Cypress Medical Center, a privately owned Houston hospital — each gave $250,000 this year, according to the TexasOne website.