Issue link: http://businessnc.epubxp.com/i/246526
"The goal is not to get into an incentive chase with other states but deliver a total long-term package." What other sectors are you interested in developing? What does the state offer companies that choose to locate here? Decker: A focus of this administration is wiring North Carolina for business. There should be no place in the state that can't be open for business because of a lack of telecommunications infrastructure. The governor recently announced the completion of the MCNC loop, which brings broadband service to rural parts of the state. That allows the last mile to be developed, putting North Carolina in a better position than almost any state in the country for communications technology. Other focuses are aviation and the military. North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, two of the largest military installations in the U.S. We want them, and the others here, to stay and grow. There is a huge opportunity to grow defense-related businesses as well. McCrory: Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and choosing to stay in the state help with business recruitment. Industry is looking for leadership and technical talent, and former soldiers can provide both. What about research and development? Decker: There is a huge opportunity here. The core of what is needed is already established. Now it's about building on it. The investment has been made in education — and research in particular — for many years. ReachNC.org, which lists research at North Carolina universities, is a resource for companies. If they're developing something in particular, they can see what research is underway and link into it. McCrory: Some of the greatest universities in the world are in North Carolina, 14 and they are good at getting research grants. Our goal is to increase the number of patents developed in the state to help fuel entrepreneurial opportunities. Some of the research is even tying into agriculture. The uniqueness of each of the state's regions allows us to recruit crops and energy businesses by meeting specifc needs. Our natural resources create a great relationship between patents and biotech and medicine. What about workforce development? Will it still be available? McCrory: There has been a disconnect between education and the skills industries need. It has developed in this state and across the nation. Industries are watching baby boomers, and all their hands-on technical skills, retire at an alarming rate. It's creating a shortage of workers, and those skill sets need to be replaced. We are trying to make that connection. One of the frst pieces of legislation I signed creates a technical-career pathway from high school to community college. We continue to spend our education and training dollars to meet those needs. North Carolina can compete against any state on talent. It just happened with Southport, Conn.-based Sturm, Ruger & Co., which is investing $26 million and hiring about 475 people by 2017 to build frearms in Rockingham County. Sixty percent of the people who responded to its help-wanted ads were community-college graduates. North Carolina beat out some big states for a company that was looking for advancedmanufacturing talent. Businesses will come if they can fnd workers. Decker: Ruger actually held a job fair, ran the ads and interviewed applicants before announcing it was coming here. And that really was to see what kind of No rt h C arol i Na E CoNo mi C DE v Elo p mE N t Gu iDE talent was here and if they were qualifed. Ruger was blown away. One of the resources that we've created is NCWorks. gov, which ties together job-search engines that the state already offers. A key component of the website is that employers defne the needed skills for each job they post. I may be a general mechanic, but the posted job might need a specifc set of skills. Doing this gives job seekers direction: It shows them the skills that they are missing, but here is where they can develop them. That's because it's not just a link between employer and job seeker. It's also a link between job seeker and the skill-development services that are offered at the state's community colleges. It's a huge step in the right direction from a workforce-development standpoint. What role will incentives play in the updated brand? McCrory: They will be strategic and targeted, complementing our recent personal- and income-tax reform. The goal is not to get into an incentive chase with other states but deliver a total long-term package. The companies we meet with are making decisions for the next 50 to 100 years, not for a small gain this year. The state's income-tax rate also is more competitive with neighboring states', and that couldn't be said too long ago. In addition to an overall package, it especially helps existing companies grow. Decker: Incentives will continue. They will still be arrows in our economic-development quiver, and they will be used as tools to help the process. We want it to be easy to do business in North Carolina, but most important, we want this to be a great place for the long haul so companies can stay and grow.