There are so many important issues facing North Carolina today. You’ll likely hear candidates for state office debating health care, education and environmental policies. But none of the proposed solutions will work if we don’t have the money to fund them. That is why I believe we must make economic development a top priority for all communities.
Textiles and tobacco no longer form the backbone of North Carolina’s economy. According to the Employment Security Commission, more than 5,000 businesses have shuttered over the last two decades. Many of those closings affected hundreds of workers and their families, making ghost towns of once vibrant communities.
If nothing else, those devastating closings taught us the danger of putting all our eggs in one basket. Instead of working to attract one big business to North Carolina, I believe it makes more sense to support smaller, community-based companies that are less likely to pick up and leave in search of friendlier tax codes. Backing 10 local companies to increase their employment by 30 people is a more economically sustainable solution to job creation than finding one company to employ 300.
We don’t need to look far in search of small businesses. North Carolina is already home to some great locally-owned companies, retail outlets, farms and factories. At the state level, our responsibility is to help these businesses grow by providing them with institutional support including training, technology and grants. We should continue to support and pursue new opportunities for cooperation between our great community college system and local businesses.
I grew up in a family-run business: As a boy, I bagged groceries at Smathers Market. I know how hard local business owners work to succeed. They deserve leaders at the state level working just as hard for their interests. As lieutenant governor, I would expand the state’s system of entrepreneurial incubators and help forge mutually beneficial partnerships among the state’s cities and towns.
In Canton, we’re working to create a combination State Expo Center / Rest Stop at the first exit travelers reach after they cross over the Tennessee border. This expo center, or market, will pique visitors’ interest in North Carolina by featuring products grown or made throughout the state. Visitors will be able to shop for barbecue sauce from Lexington or glazed pottery from the Seagrove area. By allowing each locality to contribute what it does best, the expo center will help maintain our communities’ traditional industries while building an economic base for the entire state.
The state expo is a winning project for everyone involved. But some promising economic development opportunities come with a high cost we must acknowledge and consider. We should be wary of incentive packages, and projects which could prove harmful to local economies and taxpayers, as well as the environment.
These are very general ideas, but I look forward to developing more targeted plans and initiatives with your help. I hope you will give me feedback on the thoughts I have shared here. Please do not hesitate to question, criticize or critique: I would like to continue our lively conversation.
Economic development calls for creativity, resourcefulness and vision. I believe I would bring those attributes to the lieutenant governor’s office. If you would like to learn more about me and my campaign, I would encourage you to visit my new re-launched web site at www.patsmathers2008.com. For those of you who already know me, I think you’ll also enjoy taking a look. Please let us know what you think.
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