Smith knows Texas, and he knows corporate real estate. Does Corbett's promise have him he prospecting for Houston and Dallas companies to move North? Are they ringing his phone?
Not so far. "We could find room for them. But they're not dying to come back," said Smith, smiling in his Market Street office, between maps of colonial Philadelphia and Texas topography.
Smith doesn't believe Pennsylvania's 0% gas-extraction fee, compared to Texas' 4% levy, is a convincing draw. The way Smith sees it, "companies want the gas, and they'll pay the tax."
But Pennsylvania may be passing up a good thing that could benefit all industries. Texas' energy taxes raise so many billions that the state manages without an income tax.
If Corbett really wants to make Pennsylvania like Texas, why doesn't he try that?
And who says extraction taxes are the main factor Texas energy bosses consider before selling their ranches and moving their Stetsons (an old Philly brand) up North?
When companies want to move to Houston, Smith says, a single regional agency handles real estate, leasing, licensing and tax questions. The weather may be steamy-Philly-August for most of the year, the chain shops and restaurants have that drive-by Interstate-bypass lack of character - but for business it's one-shop stopping, enabling a tenant to quickly check costs and opportunities at multiple sites and make a solid decision.
By contrast, potential clients from simpler jurisdictions freeze in disbelief, Smith says, when he explains about the Philadelphia region's hundreds of boroughs, cities and townships, each with its planning and zoning rules [i should mention within the city, you have to deal with local unelected community leaders who are mostly NIMBYs]; plus the competing county and state agencies, multiple property-tax districts, high business income tax rates and complex discounts, and other complications. Compared to Texas, tenants feel "we are over-governed,"