A client informed me recently that their project was being shelved, they were putting their house on the market, and they were moving back to Colorado. While I’m disappointed to lose any project, I am delighted to have another connection in Denver to visit (No offense, Bill), especially as James and I were just getting to know them on a non-architecture level.
And having a project cancelled or put on hold happens from time to time to every architect. Costs might come back too high. The client has decided to purchase another property instead. Perhaps a personal issue has arisen that must be tended to.
However, this time was definitely a first for me. This time the culprit was politics. Bad politics.
This client moved to Texas just in time for the start of the pandemic. Then in addition to that whammy and the state freezing solid, they also started getting their first taste of Texas politics. Politicians trying to one-up each other to prove just how right-wing they are in hopes of keeping their jobs. Censoring queer books in school libraries. Telling parents and doctors the state knows what’s best for their transgender children and patients.
Then the Roe v. Wade decision came along with all the threats of what might follow. Revisiting same-sex marriage. Revisiting access to birth control. Texas’ sleazy attorney general Ken Paxton promising to enforce sodomy laws if the Supreme Court overturns Lawrence v. Texas. Suddenly there was a tipping point, and the decision was made to return to the much bluer state of Colorado.
Ironically Texas is a very pro-business state, happy to dole out tax abatements and other incentives (like low corporate tax rates) to lure companies. Toyota. Tesla. State Farm. Caterpillar. Hewlett Packard. Just to name a few. However, when it comes to social issues, state government from the top down acts contrary to their own interests.
Would Toyota have moved their headquarters to Texas if they had to worry that either their transgender employees or their employees with transgender children might not be safe? Will a company want to move here if the legislature decides to fine companies that provide reimbursement for employees who are forced to go out of state for an abortion? And which companies will decide they are better off in an environment that’s friendlier to their talent versus losing that talent to a competitor?
And for those wondering why this would matter to a one-man architecture firm – I lost a project because a client no longer felt comfortable or safe living in Texas. That shouldn’t be a reason to lose a project. But it does beg the question – how many other architects will experience the same?
Having corporations move operations to Texas has been a boon for architects at every scale of practice. New headquarters have to be built. New offices have to be finished out. For the 4,000 people that came with Toyota, housing had to be found or in some cases built or renovated. What happens when companies decide Texas might not be the best place after all?
As to my client, I can appreciate their perspective. When Donald Trump won in 2016, my first reaction on seeing the news was that James and I would need to leave the country. All I could think of was how badly the crazies he courted to win the election were going to make queer life in America absolute hell. I certainly didn’t anticipate how many of them would be here, and neither did my client.
And consequently, I lost a project. All in the name of bad politics.