That Infosys chose Wake County for a new technology hub isn’t a simple stroke of luck. It’s the result of North Carolina following its economic development playbook to perfection. And it should show that cooperation within the state will bring far more benefits than the divisive tactics and tax slashing favored by the Republican-led General Assembly.
Infosys, a global business consulting and information technology company based in India, chose Wake County for a new technology hub because of a coordinated effort by Gov. Roy Cooper, his economic development team, the General Assembly, Wake County, Raleigh, Wake Technical Community College, N.C. State University and others. The company expects to create 2,000 jobs over the next five years. And they will be good jobs, paying $72,146 on average, nearly $20,000 a year more than the Wake County average wage.
The efforts that brought Infosys to Wake go all the way back to the founding of Research Triangle Park and the early development of the region’s public universities. Leaders in Wake County, the Research Triangle and the legislature have worked hard over generations to build the region’s foundation as a tech center. Thursday’s announcement was another of what has been and will be many many results of those efforts. It’s true that even with the Research Triangle’s appeal, the state had to offer Infosys $22.4 million in incentives over 12 years, but that’s a small price for thousands of high-paying jobs that could contribute an estimated $2.9 billion to North Carolina’s economy.
One thing that’s striking about this deal is that it may well not have happened without the repeal of House Bill 2, the law that sanctioned discrimination against transgender people and barred local laws protecting gay rights. It was always hard to tell how much HB2 was hurting the state’s economy, but the Infosys announcement gives a clear sense of what could have been lost if the law remained in place.
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The economic fallout from HB2 is the starkest evidence of how divisive social-issue legislation hurts the state. But the Infosys announcement also shows how the legislature’s fixation on tax cuts plays a small role in corporate decisions even as the resulting state budget austerity holds back the North Carolina’s inviting aspects, good schools, major public universities and a clean environment.
Dr. Vishal Sikka, the chief executive officer of Infosys, cited a variety of reasons why Infosys decided to come to Wake County and North Carolina. He spoke of “North Carolina’s already-thriving ecosystem of innovation,” it’s “talented workforce,” it’s “diverse economy” and “top-tier universities and community colleges.” He did not mention the corporate income tax the legislature has cut to the lowest in the nation. And if North Carolina continues to reduce its investment in its strongest qualities, it may not appeal to companies that want to bring thousands of high-paying jobs in the future.