North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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16 N o rt h C a r o l i N a E Co N o m i C D E v E lo p m E N t G u i D E secret meetings protect companies. They don't want to broadcast how many sites they are reviewing, and they want to preserve relationships at current loca- tions in case a move falls through. We have to operate that way to be competi- tive. It's no different than when I was on Charlotte City Council. We were asked to contribute money to support state investment in a project we knew little about. The partnership will hold public meetings. It will provide its records as any other public-private organization does. People will know what we are doing. Public reports and annual reports will be published. I'm used to operating in a public space. It's important that taxpayers know that their money is spent wisely. The Interstate 85 corridor, which runs north and south through central North Carolina, is where the most growth is expected. What do communities in the rest of the state offer, and how will the partnership develop those places? Decker: The world is urbanizing, and folks are moving to densely populated regions. That trend isn't expected to change. But that doesn't mean rural communities can't be healthy. North Carolina has that corridor, which connects the Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham and Raleigh regions. The state also has Asheville in the west, Wilming- ton on the coast, Hickory and Lenoir in the foothills and Rocky Mount, Wilson and Greenville in the east. There are opportunities for businesses to succeed in each of those communities. We're focused on infrastructure that serves many businesses and communities. Lassiter: One way to create jobs and companies in rural North Carolina is by developing a supply chain for an estab- lished industry. Collateral activity — processing plants and distribution centers are examples — can be recruited to take advantage of agriculture, fshing, forestry and manufacturing. Those main industries can be inside or outside of North Carolina. We can't feel trapped by boundaries. North Carolina has 100 counties because no one was supposed to be more than a 50-mile horse ride from a county seat. Not many people are riding horses today. And no success- ful business is letting a county or state line stop it. Asheville is a short ride up Interstate 26 from Greenville, S.C., home to a large automobile factory. North Carolina companies are taking advantage of that. The closest economic activity to northeastern North Carolina is in Virginia — Norfolk and Virginia Beach. We won't abandon the residents who live in counties without offce towers and shopping malls. I had a conversation with an executive from a computer company. He can employ 50 to 75 people at salaries of $75,000 to $90,000 a year. He wants to help people in a small North Carolina town like the one where he was raised. Plans like this are not unusual. They unfold across the country. The partnership needs to encour- age them by identifying locations and business relationships. Quality of life, especially the environment, draws people to North Carolina, so it needs to be protected. Is the partnership pushing for eco-friendly businesses or companies that develop and build products such as solar panels? Decker: North Carolina needs a variety of businesses, and we want them to work in a productive, positive and environ- mentally responsible manner. We can fnd ways to do that. There's a focus on clean tech — technology that makes better use of resources and reduces their environmental impact — in the Raleigh region. There's opportunity in North Carolina for businesses that want green operations. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc., for example, is powering its data center in Maiden with renewable energy that it's generating. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc., which has a data center in Lenoir, is working with Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp., the largest utility in the nation, to develop renewable energy sources. Lassiter: People in their 20s and 30s are selecting where they want to live and then fnding a job. Is the community clean? Does it have parks and open space? That's important to them. So you have to fnd businesses that strengthen that attraction, so they come here rather than Boston, Boulder, Colo., or San Jose, Calif. Raleigh is doing that. Its new urban philosophy is green and clean, which is attracting talent such as software engineers that businesses there need. There are similar examples in Asheville, where craft breweries were attracted to the geography and the outdoor lifestyle it supports. You try to create multiple layers that will draw workers and business investment. How do you want site selectors to describe working with the partnership? Decker: Simple, easy, engaging and enjoyable. North Carolina is open for business, and the possibilities are exciting. It's a great place to do business, and people want to be part of it. It's a migration state, and its population is growing. People come here for a higher quality of life and lower cost of living. They're seeking access to education. That brings a positive energy. We're in a good time and place to capitalize on it. Lassiter: That the process is easy. It takes a lot of work to build a partner- ship that provides customers a positive experience instead of leaving them to hack through a regulatory jungle. We have a no-surprise philosophy that makes relocating or expanding here simple. We want them to look back and say, "I need to tell everybody I know that the easiest place to do business in the country is North Carolina."

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