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Indiana's law delivers real hurt to this state tech grad

Patrick Thibodeau | March 31, 2015
Tech sector companies are far from angels on the issue of equality.

But Indiana's law is discouraging Kozub from returning the state. This law "makes me not want to go back," he said.

"I won't go to a place and contribute economically when my interests are not protected, and my interests do not hurt anybody else," Kozub said.

The law "isn't the Indiana I know," said Kozub, who, in his travels, has told people, proudly, about where he was from and the Hoosier state's friendly attitudes. "Laws like this really make me look like a fool for telling people these things," he said, and called the law a slap-in-the-face.

The tech industry attack on Indiana's law is happening on multiple fronts. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for instance, says the law is part of a "very dangerous" trend, and wrote, in a Washington Post piece, that there is a wave of legislation in some two dozen states that "would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors."

Alan Saldich, vice president of marketing at enterprise software company Cloudera, tweeted over the weekend that the company is "pulling out of" an upcoming "Indy Big Data Conference," because of the law. The company's co-founder, Amr Awadallah, was one of the keynote speakers.

Cloudera isn't the only group to pull out of the event. Late Monday afternoon, Christine Van Marter, the CEO of Conference Ventures, the conference organizer, said, in a statement that, "over the past 48 hours we have had seven national sponsors back out of the Indy Big Data Conference 2015 as a direct result of the Religious Freedom Act. This law is having an immediate and definite negative impact on technology in the state of Indiana. The Indy Big Data Conference wants lawmakers in the state of Indiana to know and acknowledge that this is a real case that is happening now, not a conference to be impacted months or years from now, and is calling for an immediate correction to this law in order to prohibit discrimination in Indiana on any grounds."

Indianapolis-based Angie's List was due to break ground on an expansion in that state, but said it is putting the project on hold. Late last year, Angie's List said it intended to grow its Indianapolis headquarters location, expanding from around 500 employees in 2011 to 2,800 by the end of 2019. It plans to hire in IT, sales and member services jobs.

The tech backlash carries implications for Indiana's economic development and for its tech employees. It's not inconceivable that Indiana's tech employees may be worried that this corporate activism may come at their expense if companies reduce their investment in the state. But tech firms, especially those with significant in-state operations, may feel they have no choice but to take strong stands if they believe they will suffer competitively in the IT, engineering and the scientific job markets.


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