As rumors swirl that North Carolina may be about to land a Toyota-Mazda joint manufacturing plant for Randolph County, economic reality has been pretty promising, too.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a skilled promoter of the state who conveys North Carolina’s progressive tradition to outside manufacturing industry representatives, announced Tuesday that Triangle Tyre Co., based in China, will establish its first manufacturing plants in the United States in Edgecombe County. Some 800 jobs are expected to be created by the company, paying an average of $56,000 annually in a county where the average is roughly $32,000.
This is huge in Eastern North Carolina, which has long been in desperate search for jobs, and Edgecombe’s unemployment rate is 6.9 percent, compared to the state’s rate of 4.1 percent.
Credit isn’t important, perhaps, but certainly Cooper’s skills are not to be underestimated when it comes to representing the state. And though some Republicans seem to be claimed their tax-cutting has polished the state’s image with businesses being recruited, that’s a reach.
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This is about a governor who knows how to sell the state and also about his finding of a compromise on the infamous House Bill 2 law that cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars thanks to its harsh slams on those in the LGBT community.
What’s next? Possibly that Toyota-Mazda plant that could bring in a $1.6 billion investment and 4,000 jobs to Randolph County, a mostly rural area near Greensboro. The governor has been working toward landing that plant, behind the scenes, and in recent days the buzz has been that North Carolina is seriously in the competition. That most certainly would be a transformative economic step for the Piedmont.
As always, the state does have to play the incentives game.
For the tire plants, there will be $152 million in state and local financial lures, but the good thing is that incentives now are tied to a company’s fulfilling its promises on hiring and investment, so the incentives are not a no-strings-attached gift. There can be debates on whether any and all incentives are too much, but the reality is that competition is fierce and the state has little choice but to play the game – though as with the tire plants, to play it wisely.
An auto manufacturing plant is regarded as an economic jewel for any state. The BMW plant in South Carolina has had remarkable benefits, even spurring a Clemson University campus near Greenville focused on research for the auto industry. And such plants do put money directly into local economies, through taxes and workers’ salaries.
So that’s why Cooper’s office is being cautious but quietly optimistic on the possibility of an auto plant – which would be, as it happens, in a part of the state that also needs a financial boost.
The reversal on HB2 and the addition of Cooper’s skills along with those of people he has brought into the economic development side of his administration make these promising days for North Carolina, with hope for more to come. That’s what additions of hundreds of jobs do for a state’s efforts to recruit new business. Success breeds success. Let’s hope.