California’s Business Exodus: A State in Crisis

High taxes, strict regulations, and unaffordable housing drive businesses out of California

California, once known as the Golden State, is experiencing a mass exodus of businesses. From small startups to large corporations, companies are fleeing the state in search of friendlier business environments. The reasons behind this exodus are clear: high taxes, burdensome regulations, and the unaffordability of housing for employees. As Chief Executive Magazine’s annual rankings consistently place California at the bottom, it is evident that the state’s business climate is in dire straits. In this article, we will explore the factors that have led to this crisis and the consequences it holds for California’s economy.

The Best and Worst States for Business

California’s ranking at the bottom of Chief Executive Magazine’s Best and Worst States for Business has become an annual tradition. In the 2023 rankings, California once again claims the undesirable position of 50th place. Texas and Florida, on the other hand, continue to dominate the top spots. The rankings highlight the stark contrast between business-friendly states and California’s unwelcoming environment.

The Exodus of Headquarters

The departure of company headquarters from California has become a concerning trend. According to a report by, 53 headquarters have left San Francisco alone since 2020. Notable examples include Tesla, Exxon Mobil, AT&T, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, all of which relocated their headquarters to Texas. The reasons cited for these moves range from the need for a more sustainable business environment to the increasing intolerance and monoculture of Silicon Valley.

Reasons for Leaving identifies several reasons why companies are leaving California. These include the difficulty of hiring talent, the desire for a more favorable business climate with lower taxes and reasonable regulations, and the high cost of living in the state. Many companies have found that other states offer a better quality of life at a more affordable cost, allowing employees to become homeowners, which is often unattainable in California. Additionally, local rules and regulations in California can be burdensome for businesses, influencing their decisions to relocate.

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The Impact on California’s Economy

The exodus of businesses from California has significant implications for the state’s economy. The Hoover Institution at Stanford published an analysis showing that between 2018 and 2021, 352 companies moved their headquarters out of California. In 2021 alone, the rate of departures doubled compared to previous years. The loss of headquarters companies is particularly detrimental as these jobs typically offer higher pay and bring decision-makers into the market, impacting various sectors from real estate to philanthropy.

The Beneficiaries of California’s Exodus reveals that between 2020 and April 2023, 85 companies with over 100 employees left California for 21 different states. Texas emerged as the biggest beneficiary, attracting 44 companies, followed by Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. These states’ business-friendly environments, lower taxes, and high quality of life have proven irresistible to companies seeking greener pastures.


California’s business exodus is a clear reflection of the state’s unhealthy economic climate. High taxes, burdensome regulations, and unaffordable housing have driven businesses away, resulting in a significant loss for California’s economy. The state’s ranking at the bottom of the Best and Worst States for Business reinforces the urgent need for change. If California wishes to reverse this trend and retain its position as a thriving business hub, it must address these issues and create a more welcoming environment for businesses. Failure to do so may leave the state in a state of terminal decline.