Bob Piazza has spent all of his 74 years living in California – married for 53 of those, and operator of a business for 46.
His roots in the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco are as deep as those of the nearby grape vines that define surrounding wine country.
But soon, Piazza, his wife and many of his employees will pull up those roots and transplant to the Treasure Valley.
When the dust settles, Price Pump Co. will be a proud part of the Idaho business economy, with a plant in Caldwell and 36 employees who are residents of the Gem State.
Piazza said he decided to leave the sunny days of Sonoma due to growing dissatisfaction with what he calls “irresponsible progressive decisions” across California. From restrictions on water use from private wells to what he sees as a conflict between California’s ‘sanctuary state’ status and Federal Law – he says his company is the latest part of a manufacturing exodus over the last 30 years.
What’s more, the cost of wages has been weighing on the company’s bottom line.
“It’s difficult to attract employees (to Sonoma), particularly from out of state,” he said. “They can’t afford to live here. Labor makes up about one-fifth of my sales dollars.”
Those high wages can make it harder to be competitive in the market, he said.
This November, Price Pump will move to a new facility in Caldwell.
According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, the company signed a $486,129 deal with the city’s urban renewal agency for about 6 acres of land in the Sky Ranch Business Center.
And in a surprise to Piazza, half of his California-based employees will come along.
“Six months ago when we made this decision I thought we’d only get one to go – and that one is me. We got 18.”
Piazza thought the Treasure Valley could sell itself – so he made it easy for employees to check it out.
“I said, ‘anyone who wants to go to Idaho – I will pay for you to go up there for three days come back and you tell me if you want to go or not. If you want to go, I will give you a $12,500 moving allowance’.”
Twelve employees took him up on the trip offer – but 18 folks are going to make the move. Price Pump will hire another 18 people locally to round out his workforce.
One employee had worked for the company for 46 years, and at 66 will be one of the new Idahoans.
“He said ‘I looked at finances living in California, I can’t afford to live here. At 66 I’m not going to find another house. I’m going to have to sell my house and move… Boise is just as good as any.'”
Another employee lost his house in the 2008 housing crisis, and feels like this is a chance to start over – and with the Boise area’s comparatively lower housing cost he will again be able to own a home.
“It makes sense for me to take these people who know this business up there – helps me move product to my customers without disruption,” he said.
One of his business partners is based in Boise which put the area on Price Pump’s radar. They looked at other locations – Texas, Reno, Las Vegas.
Ultimately Idaho has what Piazza sees as a business-friendly climate won the business. Lower income and sales taxes help, plus more modest market values for property mean lower overall property tax.
Steve Fultz, Economic Development Director with the City of Caldwell said Price Pump has been offered a number of incentives to relocate – including a 5-year property tax exemption of up to 75% and a job creation grant of up to $200,000. The new Price Pump plant in Caldwell was previously owned by the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency and was sold at a below market price “in exchange for the private investment and job creation.” Price Pump could also qualify for incentives at the state level.
“The City of Caldwell is excited to have Price Pump as a corporate neighbor,” Fultz said. “It is a long-standing business with an impeccable reputation in the industry. The addition of this new business to Caldwell means great job opportunities for our residents with a quality business, and continues to build Caldwell’s reputation as an excellent option for locating a manufacturing business.”
Piazza is excited about the change of venue.
“Labor laws in California are onerous,” Piazza said. “You don’t need a union in the state of California, the state IS your union. Even though it’s a right to work state, it’s really not – whereas Idaho is.”
He said the decision has been backed up since it became public.
“I’ve had a lot of business people from both Boise and Sonoma tell me we’re making the right call.”