Under the Dome

State incentives to Corning a ‘stick in the eye’ says senator

A state senator from Hickory is denouncing as a political “poke in the eye with a stick” a promise of state incentives to Corning Inc., which will move about 500 workers from his city to Mecklenburg.

Corning Inc. announced last month that it would relocate the global headquarters of its Optical Communications business from Hickory to Mecklenburg, where it will employ about 650 people. The state has promised $2.35 million in incentives over a dozen years.

That’s not going over well in Catawba County, where state Sen. Andy Wells, a Hickory Republican, said the decision to offer incentives for an in-state move is bad politics and bad policy. The deal shows why the state should end its incentives program, he said.

“As policy, what kind of sense did that make? The Commerce Department was paying a big New York based corporation to move its office – and 500 jobs – from one North Carolina county (Catawba) to another (Mecklenburg),” Wells wrote in his online newsletter.

“Politically, it didn’t make much sense either: The Governor’s Commerce Department had just given Catawba County the political equivalent of a poke in the eye with a stick. (Governor McCrory won Catawba County, which is losing 500 jobs, by a margin of 31,000 votes in his last election – while Mecklenburg County had given him a margin of 3,100 votes.)

“At the end of the day, there’s just one bright spot in this mess: The Department of Commerce has just given us another clear reason why stopping the state’s incentives program, once and for all, makes common sense.”

North Carolina was reportedly competing with South Carolina for the headquarters. A company representative told the Charlotte Observer that Corning would also seek incentives from Mecklenburg and from the town or city it picks for its new headquarters.