Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina will focus its business recruiting efforts on 38 industries as part of a new economic development plan that a group of business, political and education leaders officially turned into Gov. Pat McCrory Friday.
"We really got an opportunity to re-look at the way we generate jobs in North Carolina," said John Lassiter, chairman of the North Carolina Economic Development Board.
The board has spent the last six months developing the plan, which amounts to a blueprint for McCrory's strategy to bolster job creation in North Carolina.
Lassiter will also play a part in putting the plan into action. He will be a board member of a new private nonprofit corporation that was created to handle many of the job recruiting and marketing responsibilities carried out by the state Commerce Department. Private equity exec to lead NC Economic Development Partnership
"This is the first comprehensive plan that's been executed in over a decade," Lassiter told reporters after the meeting.
The report itself is a glossy 26-page manual full of bullet points and goals but short on directions. It will be up to the governor, the new nonprofit and the Commerce Department to follow through on the recommendations, said those who attended Friday's roll out.
"A lot of this requires rethinking of some things that will require legislation," Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said.
Among the legislative fixes the McCrory administration will ask for are tweaks to the state's incentive funds. In particular, the report suggests expanding the One North Carolina Fund, a pot of incentives money that was available to use at the governor's discretion. Lawmakers and even some economic developers have been skeptical of how it was used in the past, but Decker said the state needed some sort of "closing fund" that could help complete high-value deals.
McCrory has said that he would not use or ask for large upfront cash incentives that are features of other states' development plans. Decker said the expanded One North Carolina Fund would not be designed to compete with other states' cash grants. Rather, she said, it could provide funding for things like clearing an industrial site so a new business could build there.
The report also specifically mentions the state's film incentives program. North Carolina's current tax credit for film makers and television productions expires at the end of the year.
"(A) new demand driven tax incentive model need to be developed that focuses on positive return on investments," the report reads.
Neither Decker nor Lassiter could say what exactly the new program would look like or how it would differ from the existing tax credit, which gives a refund for a portion of the sales tax a production spends in North Carolina. North Carolina Jobs Plan 2014-2024
"We don't just want to be a location for filming," Lassiter said.
Currently, he said, too many productions come into the state, make their movie and leave. Any incentive program, he said, should encourage film makers and television productions to be based here.
"How do we do the kinds of things that cause long-playing series, long-scaled TV contracts, post-production activities (and) sound stages that employ people long term?" he said. "We want people taking up mortgages."
Much of the document released Friday constitutes a broad-brush treatment of the state's economic strengths and weaknesses, with details to be filled in later by the Commerce Department, the new economic development nonprofit and others. However, the document does lay out how the state should refocus its educational and job recruitment efforts.
For example, the report says North Carolina should focus more educational resources in areas that employers say are in high demand. It points to science, technology, engineering and math education generally and specific focus areas that include information technology, health science, transportation and logistics, agriculture and food science and architecture, engineering and construction.
The committee lays out 38 industries in 10 "clusters" in which the state should concentrate its job recruiting efforts. For example, the manufacturing cluster includes old standbys like furniture and textiles as well as chemicals, plastics, metals and automotive sectors. Under energy production, the committee calls for recruiting those businesses dealing with "smart grid" energy efficiency projects as well as oil and gas drilling.
"If you're not on the list, don't worry, we want you here in North Carolina," Decker said when asked about businesses not on the chart.
However, she said, the state has to concentrate its efforts. "You can't do all of it well," she explained. "When you have no priorities, it's hard to drive outcomes."