New Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker told the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday that she plans to look "broadly and freshly" at how the state recruits new businesses.
Decker told lawmakers the state needs to refocus its brand through proactive recruiting and a new public-private partnership.
She said specifics will be coming out in the next few weeks about "PPPP" – "the Public-Private Partnership for Prosperity." She offered few details about the proposal, except to say that it will be "more nimble" than government and able "to engage a lot more private dollars in the process." Its focus will be on international investment.
Decker likened the current state of North Carolina's economy to the 1950s. "It was a time to reshape who we were economically," she said. "We can't find success doing things the same way."
When it comes to economic development, she said, the spotlight is often on the state's urban centers. But she said living in Rutherford County for more than a decade has helped her recognize that North Carolina is truly a state of small, rural communities, and that's where economic development is most needed.
"We have a plethora of resources, of talent, of business in North Carolina. Our challenge is to go back to our roots and use what we have," she said.
Questioned about the use of incentives, Decker told the committee they're only part of the "arsenal of tools" but are still necessary to compete with other states.
"If everyone else is going to pick up their toys, then I'll pick up my toys," she said. "But that ain't gonna happen, guys, so I've still got to have a quiver full of arrows."
A report released Monday by the General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division shows the state spent almost $1.4 billion on economic development last year. Nearly $1.3 billion – all but 8 percent – went to pay for tax incentives.