Raleigh, N.C. — A week after Volvo picked a South Carolina site for its first U.S. manufacturing plant, economic developers from across North Carolina were in Raleigh on Tuesday to press lawmakers for the tools they say they need not only to recruit such large projects but also to be in the running for smaller business relocations and expansions.
"In order to keep North Carolina growing, we must maintain and strengthen a performance-based, self-funded Job Development Investment Grant program," said Michael Smith, executive director of Statesville Regional Development and president of the North Carolina Economic Developers Association.
JDIG rebates part of the state withholding tax for new employees to companies that meet hiring and investment targets over a specified period. The program is set to end this year unless lawmakers vote to extend it.
Gov. Pat McCrory's administration has been imploring lawmakers since January to renew and expand JDIG, and although various incentives bills have been filed in the General Assembly, all have stalled along the way.
Smith said the JDIG program is a "critical tool" for economic development executives statewide, and he dismissed criticism that the bulk of grant funds go to urban counties such as Wake and Durham.
"Regardless of where announcements take place, both urban and rural areas benefit from neighboring counties winning projects," he said, noting that $80 million in JDIG money has gone to utility infrastructure projects in rural areas.
The uncertainty over the future of North Carolina's business incentives is jeopardizing recruitment efforts, he said, noting corporate boards won't sign off on any moves in the state without being able to weigh the pros and cons against offers from other states.
"There is a real need for long-term extension of the JDIG program. That provides certainty for the private sector looking to make complicated decisions," Smith said.
"We stand here united urging the General Assembly to keep us competitive and act on JDIG now," he concluded.