Words of wisdom from Xerox

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns
Xerox CEO Ursula Burns

A perennial question in the halls of Frankfort — and one that's sure to spark even more debate as Kentucky takes another swing at tax reform — is how to make the state more welcoming to investment and employers.

We were curious about what Xerox CEO Ursula Burns thinks makes for a good business climate. Burns, who was in Lexington last week, has a huge basis for comparison.

Xerox is one of the most famous multinationals and employs almost 140,000 people worldwide. That includes 5,000 people in Kentucky after Xerox bought ACS for $6.4 billion in 2010 and expanded its Kentucky-based call center operations.

Burns said companies like Xerox do look at taxes, regulation and the strength of unions and want competitiveness in all three areas.

"But that's not where we focus our energies at all. I focus them on: Do you have a good education infrastructure, so that a skilled employee would want to live in Kentucky ... (and) send their kids to school.

"Do you have good infrastructure? Can I get in and out of the state? Do you have good roads that are reasonable, ports, an airport, an energy source that's reasonable?

"Those things, over a long period of time, are more important to me, to Xerox and to most businesses, by the way, because we've done 'tax goes up, tax goes down.'

"We will move out of places that don't have good education, good arts; don't have a place people want to live. That is a business-friendly state. All the rest of the stuff is on the edges. ...

"If all we were looking for is the cheapest place to do business, we'd go to India."