Thursday, June 22, 2006

Listening to RedPrairie's rant:

Tell us what you really want

A week ago, few people in Wisconsin had ever heard of RedPrairie, a medium-sized software design company with 200 employees in Waukesha and 950 worldwide.

Now, thanks to a Journal Sentinel Sunday spread, RedPrairie is a cause celebre for conservatives, a symbol for those who like to portray Wisconsin as a state with high taxes, an unfriendly government, and a hostile business climate.

RedPrairie's CEO, a hardline anti-government, anti-tax zealot named John Jazwiec, says he is considering moving the company out of Wisconsin.

Now, we're supposed to Listen to RedPrairie and take Jazwiec's words to heart, the editorial writers say.

OK, let's listen to Jazwiec for a moment. Tell me what you hear. This from a Q-A with the newspaper:
"This is a welfare state and a welfare local area that we live in. And whether it be communism or whether it be France, it's (been) proven time and time again that supporting that kind of tax structure to support that kind of welfare environment squeezes out business investment."
Want to hear some more? WisPolitics reports:
Jazwiec was a featured panelist at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast presented by Small Business Times in January, when he criticized Wisconsin's liberal and progressive traditions.

"I travel around the world … I think that the government of Wisconsin in general and the companies of Wisconsin must resist the temptation to maintain the socialistic mentality," Jazwiec said. "This state is particularly socialistic. I always joke that there's a hammer and sickle on the flag as I enter the state … I think you need to lower taxes, and I think we need to lower government handouts," Jazwiec told the Economic Trends audience.
What are his complaints, besides living in a socialist/communist state? Back to the JS:
Despite RedPrairie's status as a technology leader, neither state nor local leaders have reached out to the company, Jazwiec said. Also, the state's tax and political climate and Milwaukee's high crime rate are obstacles to creating the kind of environment that supports high-growth companies such as RedPrairie, he said.
So here's this self-important guy sitting in Waukesha and neither the governor nor the mayor has "reached out" to him. (That's corporate talk for no one has kissed my ass.)
"We'd love to have him in Milwaukee," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "And if he doesn't want to be in the city of Milwaukee, we'd love to have him stay in the region."
Barrett did not mention posterior-kissing; not on the first date, anyway.

Do you suppose Jazwiec has "reached out?" Can you imagine that if he asked to talk, discuss the problems he sees, and look for solutions that he would be ignored, if he had contacted state and local officials? I can't, unless he approaches them with such a closed mind they don't feel there's anything to talk about.

Should Gov. Jim Doyle reach out to discuss getting rid of "Wisconsin's liberal and progressive traditions," which JJ (can I call him JJ?) has complained about. It wouldn't be enough if Doyle offered him the keys to the treasury. He'd demand that Doyle take the portrait of Gaylord Nelson off the wall of the governor's office,too.

What is it that JJ really wants? It sounds to me very much like he's another one of those anti-government executives who is hoping to parlay his publicity and threat to leave the state as a way to extort some corporate welfare for his company.

Or maybe the guy's just got happy feet. In 2002, he told the Business Journal he was thinking of moving the business from Waukesha to downtown Milwaukee. "
"My high, high preference is to be in Milwaukee with this company," he said.

Jazwiec it would be easier to recruit employees to RedPrairie if it were based in downtown Milwaukee. However, he believes the city needs to step up its efforts to brand itself as a technology hot spot.

I don't think this town gets the credit for the well-run companies that it has here that are technology oriented," Jazwiec said.
What's changed? Not the tax picture, and not the crime rate, despite what he says. If anything, they've gotten better. What's changed is his attitude.

Milwaukee's business community, rather than defending the region, rolls over and plays dead for Jazwiec in the article:
"If the CEO of a fast-growing technology company feels this way, it is reality," said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. "If this region cannot deliver a crisp answer as to how it helps a company like RedPrairie be more innovative and productive, we lose."
If one corporate exec feels this way, it is reality? If one jerk says Wisconsin is a socialist state, we're a socialist state? If one executive speaks up who likes it here, I guess then that would be reality. But it only applies to detractors.

Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee can't think of anything good to say about the city, either:
That's also why you won't find many people fighting Jazwiec about his views, said Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

"The fight is going to be making change, and I think people are up to the fight," she said.
What would keep him here, most likely, are some financial incentives for his company. In layman's terms, he wants to be bought off with taxpayer money to keep his business here.

When someone sounds off about this being a welfare state, or a communist society, it sounds to me like that person has already made a decision. The company, owned by a California firm, probably has already decided to move once its "relocation study" is completed -- unless, of course, the governor shows up on bended knee to offer JJ that key to the state treasury. Then they could dicker over Gaylord's portrait.

The RedPrairie situation is inevitably being compared to what happened with Kimberly Clark in 1986.

Kimberly Clark, the giant paper company, decided to move its headquarters from the Fox Valley and out of Wisconsin during the 1986 governor's race. The CEO, Darwin Smith, blamed the state's bad business climate, which translated into an attack on the administration of Gov. Tony Earl. It played a big role in Earl's defeat by Tommy Thompson.

So, the pundits speculate, is this Doyle's Kimberly Clark?

I would say no. For one thing, Kimberly Clark was a household word in Wisconsin, a long-time, prominent major employer. RedPrairie is -- well, most of us didn't know it was anything until a few days ago, and I'm not so sure people across Wisconsin are going to listen to our friend JJ when they go to the ballot box.

Then there's this, from an Xoff reader:
If RedPrairie is Governor Doyle's Kimberly-Clark, what happens when Gov. Green signs the 2007 version of Assembly Bill 499 and drives all of the stem cell scientists out of Wisconsin and west to California? The impact would make it appear like Tony Earl is Darwin Smith's best friend.
UPDATE: Folkbum Jay Bullock takes on neocon columnist Paddy Mac on the issue. Link.

UPDATE 2: Brew City Brawler asks: Is JJ a comsymp?

UPDATE 3: JJ's advice to the Dems: Be more conservative than the Republicans.

7 Comments:

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Jason Haas said...

I was the #2 at LinuxPPC, Inc., a now-deceased software company that was based in Madison, Waukesha and Milwaukee. I never heard anything from my boss that sounded the least bit similar to what Mr. Jazwiec said about Wisconsin, be it the tax structure or anything else. If anything, we flourished here, with strong education base at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Madison and Milwaukee are not Silicon Valley or Route 128 in Boston. Nor are they bad for places for a software company to be located. Witness the success of Epic Systems in Madison (neé Verona). And we certainly had no complaints.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Xoff said...

This came via email from a search consultant:

Can't post as "anonymous" on your blog---so here goes, off the record.

RedPrairie's CEO is full of crap, as you indicate--but for more than a few reasons.

1) He claims 'he can't get good employees' for the Company. Likely that's true--most heavy-duty software folks live in So Cal and wouldn't THINK of going to Milwaukee, Waukesha, or any other place like that. I've been in recruitment for 30 years and after 2 weeks learned that you don't bother calling people on either coast about Milwaukee/Wisconsin situations (unless it's for CEO...)

2) RedPrairie's success to date (and it's been good) was assembled by Wisconsin people and Wisconsin managment. This guy's an import--IIRC, he came from California, which is key.

3) Your point that RP is owned by a Cali group of investors is on target.

4) The propaganda value of this announcement is very high, but the content value is very low. And the propagandists are going full-speed ahead.

On the other hand, taxes and regs are onerous in this State.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger Jay Bullock said...

Wow . . .

So California investors install a California CEO atop a company built by Wisconsin labor--and then the CEO threatens to abandon the Wisconsin workers who made the company successful. Wisconsin's conservatives should be mad at him.

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger Michael J. Mathias said...

Why is it always “socialism” when the people, through the government they elect, attempt to improve the lives of individual citizens, but an "investment" when those same dollars are routed to whining executives who can't figure out how to manage their own businesses without support from the taxpayers?

JJ’s either already decided to move (and just wants to make a few parting shots) or he’s auditioning for a job with a hoped-for Green administration. The timing on this smells fishy. My money’s on the latter.

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger TrueConservative said...

These type of anti-region, anti-Wisconsin rants are very annoying and hurt our ability to promote Wisconsin as the wonderful place it really is. This CEO sounds like a California Neo-Con with no real sense of what it takes to build esteem within his company or the community. Go back to California - just leave the know-how that was developed here in Wisconsin in Waukesha. Sheehy and the crowd have offended me completely with their support of people like this and their hiring of Republican Caucus staffers. It is time for a change in leadership at MMAC.

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger Terrence Berres said...

Can the search consultant explain whether or not Wisconsin can expect to eventually keep heavy-duty stem cell research folks? I assume they also will have competing opportunities elsewhere.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Whirl-Away said...

Actually, Georga Thompson is more of a household name than Kimberly Clark.
Maybe companies stay here in spite of confiscatory tax levies, not because of them.
Maybe "JJ" has a valid point.
Maybe it's very easy to pull up stakes with a company that produces 1's and 0's, as opposed to motor cycles.
Maybe I think it's great that "JJ" is playing hardball on this level, although he might have gotten what he wanted faster by other methods...*cough*Adelman*cough*.
Maybe I'm just a Troll.

 

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