by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s a possibility two Western states will consider, as Rich Karlgaard documents in the latest issue of Forbes. Software entrepreneurs Doug Burgum and Greg Gianforte are running as Republican candidates for governor in North Dakota and Montana, respectively.
Gianforte’s and Burgum’s successes give the lie to the idea that all good tech startups in the U.S. must eventually migrate to Seattle, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Austin or Raleigh-Durham–or at least to a town with a decent-size airport and where cars don’t have to stop for freight trains and cattle cars. For all the talk about technology’s startup and financial energies dispersing around the U.S. and the globe, the fact is that hotbeds like Silicon Valley, Sydney and Shenzhen have consolidated their share of tech creation and wealth. Social demographer Richard Florida says the world is getting spikier, not flatter. The rich are getting rich, and the poor are getting new Wal-Marts.
Gianforte and Burgum are passionate outliers to this dreary defeatism. They think their states can punch above their weight to become players–not just locally but globally. And the people working for smart, global-facing companies in those states can have wonderful lives–with ridiculously affordable housing, good public schools, fine outdoor recreation, college sports teams to cheer for and up-and-coming restaurants in which to dine.
These are the kinds of happy results that Gianforte and Burgum, as successful entrepreneurs, have created for their small states. And now both propose to govern their states in a way that attracts capital and talent and other raw material beyond rich soil and deep wells.