David Hoppe

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:: Business versus bigotry, aka ‘religious freedom’

by David Hoppe

It’s been heartening, if hardly unexpected, to see Scott McCorkle, the CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a major high-tech company, come out against the Indiana General Assembly’s latest attempt to cancel the 21st Century, also known as the “Religious Freedom” bill.

Based in San Francisco, Salesforce acquired Indianapolis’ ExactTarget in 2013, for $2.5 billion, building a bridge between Indy and the world capital of high-tech. Talk about a win-win. If the deal was great for Salesforce, it was eye-blinkingly brilliant in terms of Indy’s overall economic development strategy.

Now this.

It’s as though our state legislature has this gnawing need to remind everyone, everywhere that Indianapolis is still part of Indiana. Indy gets carried away sometimes and, well, it’s lucky we have a bunch of lawfakers available to act like hall monitors.

They keep Indy from getting too uppity.

In a letter addressed to the General Assembly, McCorkle wrote: “Our success is fundamentally based on our ability to attract and retain the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees, regardless of gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

He goes on to say the proposed law is discriminatory and threatens to put a damper on Salesforce’s ability to hire the highly skilled employees his business needs. The kind of employees who are readily available, say, in San Francisco.

McCorkle speaks plainly — a good practice under any circumstances but, when addressing our state legislators, downright essential. What he calls “the lack of clarity” in the bill, “hurts the business community and the connections that a successful region and state need to continue progress in a competitive environment. Without an open business environment that welcomes all residents and visitors, Salesforce will be unable to continue building on its tradition of marketing innovation in Indianapolis.”

McCorkle is no fool. He can all-too-easily imagine what’s going to happen when a new Salesforce hire walks into a local pharmacy and is denied access to contraception because the person behind the counter thinks selling such stuff is sinful.

First, that Salesforce person is going to think, “That’s weird.” Then they’re likely to ask themselves: “What the hell am I doing here?”

They’ll start looking for work elsewhere.

And Indianapolis can kiss its hopes of becoming a high-tech destination good-bye.

I applaud McCorkle for writing such a blunt letter. It’s clear this is an important issue to him — and to his business. He’s not alone. The Indy Chamber of Commerce has already expressed its disapproval of Senate Bill 101, as has Cummins Engine. One hopes that all this corporate firepower might give the Republican business-lovers in the General Assembly a shiver or two.

But whether that happens or not, what I really hope is that someday we’ll have the kind of state legislature that’s capable of rejecting a bigoted bill like this on its face. Not because it’s bad for business, but because it’s wrong to officially slice and dice our society into friends and foes.

That, however, is going to take awhile.