Investing in Quality of Life Beats Giveaways to Big Corporations
In a recent Indy Weekly article, Bob Geary makes the case that instead of more tax giveaways to big corporations, we should invest in our communities to create jobs. In the announcement put out by Merecedes-Benz when they chose Georgia over North Carolina for a new plant, they cited the high quality of public schools their employees will have access to.
What's the best way for states to generate jobs and economic growth? It's a question raised by Gov. Pat McCrory's two notable actions of 2015—his call for new "tools" to recruit business and his deal with Raleigh to sell the former Dorothea Dix Hospital campus.
McCrory's plea for tools—money—to lure corporate facilities to North Carolina came in the wake of a decision by Mercedes-Benz to relocate its U.S. headquarters, and about 800 jobs, from New Jersey to Atlanta rather than to Raleigh or Charlotte, which the company also considered.
At an economic forum in Durham last Monday, the governor asked members of the N.C. Chamber and N.C. Bankers Association to help him persuade the General Assembly to "get a new strategic program in place ... in literally a matter of weeks." He seemed almost distraught.
Putting more money at his disposal for business recruitment, McCrory said, should be the General Assembly's No. 1 priority as it starts its 2015 session.
A week later, McCrory was all smiles as he announced, with Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, that the state intends to sell the Dix campus to the city for $52 million. The 308-acre tract, which overlooks downtown Raleigh from the south side of Western Boulevard, is a superb site for the urban park Raleigh has in mind—a signature place akin to New York City's Central Park.
It's too bad we didn't get Mercedes-Benz. But in the long run, a great Dix Park will be far more important to North Carolina's and the Triangle's economic prospects than any single corporate headquarters we might've landed by writing a bigger state check.
There's very little evidence in the first place that corporations choose their locations based on how much a state is willing to pay.
But even if they did, the number of jobs at stake from these corporate moves is a flyspeck compared to the economic growth a state can and must generate by maintaining a high quality of life. Which means good schools, universities and, yes, parks, along with other public "goods" such as clean air, clean water and efficient roads, ports, airports and other transit services.
Bottom line, our state's quality of life is something the governor and General Assembly can influence by their spending decisions, unlike where Mercedes-Benz will locate, and why QOL—not tax breaks for companies—should be No. 1.