Economist: NC business climate is strong, despite recent corporate layoffs

Posted January 14, 2015

— Banana producer Chiquita Brands International's notice Wednesday that its headquarters will leave Charlotte by the end of next year – a loss of about 300 jobs – is the latest in a series of similar announcements from several large companies and corporations in recent weeks.

Is it a coincidence, or is it a snapshot of North Carolina's business climate?

Brent Lane, director of the Carolina Center for Competitive Economies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the announcements are hardly devastating to a state of nearly 10 million people.

The biggest issue, he says, might be the perception that big businesses are pulling out of the state.

"In many ways, decisions to come to North Carolina and to leave are more important from a marketing perception than they are from an economic standpoint," Lane said Wednesday.

He equates those notable losses – including drug manufacturers Hospira in Clayton and GlaxoSmithKline in Research Triangle Park and skin care products and cosmetics retailer The Body Shop in Wake Forest – to ego blows and says the core of North Carolina's business climate is strong.

"We're seeing broader economic growth, most of that coming from 300,000, 400,000 relatively small businesses in the state," Lane said. "(They are the) ones that don't get headlines when they open a new facility or add a handful of jobs. That's really the core of the state economy. That's what drives income growth in North Carolina."

Right now, Gov. Pat McCrory is in the United Kingdom with North Carolina Commerce Secretary John Skvarla working on recruiting businesses to the state.

Lane says investing in those types of high-profile "home runs" is critical to marketing North Carolina. Also critical, he says, is keeping it balanced.

"It's like baseball. Occasionally, you're going to bring in a free agent – that home-run hitter that you think is going to bring people to the seats," Lane said. "But those are free agents, and when they come for the money, they will leave for the same reason."

Lane says he doesn't classify them leaving as a failure unless the state focuses too much on big businesses and not enough on the locally owned and operated businesses.


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  • Gary_too Jan 15, 2015

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    You obviously don't have a clue about small businesses. Move out of your Mom's basement in Chapel Hill and see the real world.

  • Black HelicoptersNFood Insurance Jan 15, 2015

    I think it is cute the GOP claims the ‘government doesn’t create jobs’ until they are in the majority and then they rush to take credit. Also that the national improvement is “smoke and mirrors” but the state improvement is the Word of God.

  • Bill Brasky Jan 15, 2015

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    So Republicans pushing us into the ground than pulled us back up is some how saving us?

  • rlewis Jan 15, 2015

    As one of the employees that received his walking papers this week, it's a little more of a problem for *us* than an "ego blow", Brent Lane.

  • Imma Annoid Jan 15, 2015
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    Keep in mind GlaxoSmithKline cut 450 R&D jobs, which is beyond the jobs they have been cutting all along in RTP. GSK is also forcing employees to outsource companies with a fraction of the benefits. They are even doing this to employees

  • Imma Annoid Jan 15, 2015
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    You are spot on. The only thing politicians can do is cut taxes.

  • Fanny Chmelar Jan 15, 2015
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    Uhm, no, not really. We've always had a strong business climate - it hasn't improved under the GOP, or gotten worse (other than big companies pulling out).

    It's just that now we're upping sales taxes (discouraging spending) and lowering income taxes (to benefit the top earners) and lowering business taxes (although it's clearly not needed), leaving us with a growing deficit in our state.

  • jimcricket15 Jan 15, 2015

    This article is a joke. The politicians claiming they create private sector jobs is a massive joke and lie. Yes the policies can and do have an impact, but a business decision to stay somewhere or leave is driven by a lot more than what a given location has to offer. The anti-business attitude and climate is absolutely stupid, but people persist in engaging in that behavior.

  • iopsyc Jan 15, 2015

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    Except, there was no dive.

  • Pete Muller Jan 15, 2015
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    So far the GOP trifecta is merely maintaining the status quo. Nothing to get excited about.