Everyone knows that Silicon Valley is an expensive place to do business, and I’ve heard warnings that unless the area does more for business, companies will immigrate to more favorable locations. I doubt we’ll see refugees fleeing for the Nevada border any time soon, but companies like Apple are locating new facilities in other states, most notably Texas, and specifically, in Austin, Texas.
Apple hoped to establish a 130 acre, $80 million business park just outside of Austin, in Williamson County, and had asked the Williamson County Commissioners for a $750,000 tax rebate in exchange for spending gobs of money on the facility and creating an estimated 700 jobs in the area. Last week the county commissioners rejected Apple’s proposal, not because of the financial aspects of the deal, but because Apple offers benefits to domestic partners of homosexual employees. Few companies are so progressive in this respect, although Microsoft has a similar policy.
Apple spokeswoman Lisa Byrne, sounding somewhat stunned, said in a radio interview that the company would not push the proposal further unless the commissioners reconsidered their three to two decision. I was bothered most by the sheer bigotry of the action – these commissioners seem to equate this policy with the encouragement of homosexuality, ignoring the fact that homosexuality, if a decision at all, certainly isn’t one based on whether or not companies offer health benefits to partners. In that radio interview, one of commissioners went so far as to claim that allowing so many homosexuals into the area (in their eyes, most of the 700 jobs would obviously be filled by gays) would result in broken homes. Hmm? Welcome to the myth of the 1950’s. Whatever one’s views on the subject, the real world today contains homosexuals, and it’s interesting to see the denial of that fact spill over into the money-driven world of big business.
I’m most surprised, and somewhat impressed, by the fact that the commissioners came out and announced the reasoning behind rejecting Apple’s proposal. It would have been far easier for them to reject it for some trumped-up reason, and then to congratulate each other for having turned back the gay menace at the gates of decency (as defined by the Williamson Country border). Enough said – maybe Apple will locate the facility near Seattle instead.