Will a Boycott of Arizona Take Aim at Tech?

Arizona’s new immigration laws have caused a firestorm of controversy, and with boycotts of the state being called for by opponents of the new measures, Arizona’s strong tech industry could take a hit. According to a Computerworld report, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is already calling for his city’s IT staff to avoid products from Arizona, and more such proclamations, both large and small, are expected.

What’s the scope of the potential threat to Arizona’s tech business?

Arizona remains a major center for semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, employing 21,000 people in 2008, the most recent data available, according to TechAmerica, an industry group. Intel says it has 10,000 employees in Arizona alone, according to an undated post on its Web site. Overall, Arizona’s tech industry employs some 116,400 workers, according to TechAmerica.

Local tech officials interviewed by Computerworld expect any impact to be short-lived. "For the most part, people are overreacting to what’s happened and not focusing on the real issue, which is that we need comprehensive immigration reform in the United States," said Steven Zylstra, president and CEO Arizona Technology Council

There’s also the chance that legal H-1B workers could feel uncomfortable moving to- or staying in- the state, and that any resulting brain drain could cause problems. But again, local experts insist that such effects would be minor and not long-lasting. Still, as one foreign worker points out, it’s both "scary and painful" to have to carry documentation around all the time simply to avoid potential problems.

Don Willmott