Since January 1 of this year, North Carolina has announced projects worth over $7 billion in capital investments and over 15,000 jobs, providing our residents and their families with opportunities to flourish. International companies like Boom Supersonic, Eli Lilly and VinFast have chosen North Carolina to create their innovative and pioneering products. Companies born and raised in our state know they can rely on the people of North Carolina, and choose to expand here, rather than open a new facility elsewhere.
There is much that goes on behind the scenes to attract economic development projects like we have this year, and North Carolina would not have landed these opportunities if it were not for one necessary and vital component.
In a time when bipartisanship has all but vanished nationally, it is alive and well in North Carolina, and our recent economic development successes are perfect examples of this at work. These successes are attributed to the work, cooperation and partnerships between Governor Cooper, the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Department of Commerce (Commerce), the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) and its Board of Directors, among many other public and private partners at the local, state, and even federal levels.
Take the EDPNC, for example. Our organization functions as a public-private partnership promoting tourism to our state, recruiting new businesses and providing support for those looking to start and/or expand businesses, no matter how big or small. With its connections in the private sector and partnerships within state government, the EDPNC connects prospective businesses to the resources they need from across state and local government and private businesses. Together, these entities work to secure a new project, many of which can be lifechanging for the people of North Carolina.
Just look at the recent announcement that VinFast, a Vietnamese car company, is investing $4 billion in Chatham County to create 7,500 jobs. This major announcement was a product of the EDPNC’s and Commerce’s recruitment efforts, Governor Cooper’s and the General Assembly’s support for education, infrastructure, grants and incentives, and local government and private companies’ support on the ground. Our state would have missed the biggest economic development project it has ever seen in the state’s history if we all could not work together. The General Assembly even allocated $10 million per year for three years to the EDPNC for business marketing, so that we do not break momentum and we keep moving forward.
I am a product of rural North Carolina having spent my career in business in the private sector. I have also served as mayor of Rockingham as well as a North Carolina State Senator, and I currently serve as chairman of EDPNC’s Board of Directors. This has given me a firsthand look at how bipartisanship is critical to success, and what can happen if we all work together. I am proud of what we have accomplished with EDPNC board members who have been appointed by members from a General Assembly and Governor Cooper from opposite sides of the aisle. We have been able to create an award-winning business climate that the biggest companies in the world want to experience and use for their own success. We have come together for a common purpose, and we have achieved wonderful things, all for the betterment of North Carolina and its residents.
I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining bipartisanship, not only in economic development but in all aspects of North Carolina life. It is not enough to look at the here and now, we must keep in mind the bigger picture for our state. We need to be open minded and welcoming of new people and opportunities. Companies are looking for more diversity on every level – even geography and recreation, which North Carolina has in abundance.
Bipartisanship is working in North Carolina and has brought us record success. Imagine what maintaining these partnerships and continuing cooperation can do for our state’s future, and most importantly its citizens, years down the line. I am proud of our state and optimistic that more opportunities are coming our way. Now that I’ve reached the grandparent stage of life, I’m convinced more than ever this is what our citizens, our children and grandchildren deserve.
Gene McLaurin is chairman of the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. He formerly served as mayor of Rockingham and as a state sentator.