Cross-posted from my website, chrisheagarty.com.
Competition. It drives our economy, pushes us to be better, and is a cornerstone of the American Dream. Right now, many people in Wake County are engaged in the fight of their lives. We're competing for jobs and opportunities. We're doing our best to make sure that we're not the first generation that makes things harder on the next.
In the State House, we can’t solve the global economic crisis. But that doesn’t mean we need to sit back and wring our hands, nor is it responsible to try to pin the blame on others. We have in North Carolina the resources and the potential to create new jobs and ignite economic growth. But it's not enough to rest upon our reputation or to hope that one-size-fits-all solutions will somehow turn things around. We need leadership and vision to fight to get the job done. I've done my best to be that leader.
As your Representative in the General Assembly, I've co-sponsored legislation that will help North Carolina's next generation of employers remain competitive - so that our sons and daughters have jobs after they graduate - and that will help us stay competitive right now. One bill I helped write focuses on jobs that form the digital economy. This is an economic sector that will not only help us to jump-start our local economy, but which will also benefit Triangle students, keeping their rich talents and academic prowess here rather than losing them to other states.
I'm part of the team in the General Assembly that believes in the importance of a good education. However, some politicians running this year want to turn back the clock to a time when North Carolina didn't have world-class colleges and universities. They support policies that will put education on the chopping block by firing teachers and reducing access to a good public education.
I'll be blunt: they forget that it's our job to make sure that our students are smart enough to compete in a global, no longer local, economic market. They also seem to forget that if we don't maintain our commitment to education, high-tech industries will pass over Wake County for more competitive markets, in other states or over seas.
Of course, the cynics might say “who are you, the politicians, to know what is best and how to create jobs?” That’s a fair criticism. That’s why I am not relying on my own experience and judgment, but also upon the vision and insight of the leaders of the high-tech community that built companies like Cisco, EMC, and Red Hat. I am meeting with the workers and management of companies like IBM and Lenovo to ask what are we, as a state, doing right, and what needs improvement.
They are on the record, as recently as the NC Technology Association’s annual meeting, as confirming that education and workforce training are the top attributes that their companies look for when looking to expand jobs. They believe North Carolina has a favorable business climate. They value the investments we have made in creating a high quality of life here that promotes creativity, diversity, and a healthy environment. Our research universities, community colleges, and public schools are crucibles for economic development. That’s why people want to relocate and live in North Carolina and the Triangle.
But, they warn, our state needs to do a better job promoting entrepreneurship and we must fight against backsliding. Globally, other nations are rapidly improving their education systems. To incubate new jobs we need to strive to be at the top, not succumb to a race to the bottom by laying off classroom teachers and scrapping what made our state so great.
Our economy will not recover unless we nurture new business opportunities while maintaining our investment in education. The two are intimately intertwined. I want to go back to the General Assembly next year to keep fighting for new jobs and the schools that made the Research Triangle world-renowned.
There may yet be a longer storm before the calm. Still, a good education is important, even in the worst economy. Wake County will always have to compete - but we'll never recover our jobs if we don't have a representative who can fight to keep Wake County on the cutting edge of a competitive economy.
We know Wake County has to compete; the alternative will lead to defeat.