Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Amazon & N.C. - a good fit legislature must size up

Posted September 12

 (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017; Editorial # 8211
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Even among seasoned economic development professionals, the scale of Amazon’s HQ2 project – a second company headquarters – is astronomical.

The 50,000 new jobs would equal the combined employment of the 200 firms that now occupy the Research Triangle Park. The estimated 8 million square feet of space equals a third of space occupied by all the firms at RTP. The project’s $5 billion price tag is a fifth of ALL North Carolina’s state-funded spending.

By the criteria Amazon set out last week for its search to locate the second headquarters, it is not a stretch to visualize North Carolina – particularly the Triangle area – as a natural fit. A New York Times interactive visualization of top contenders put the Triangle Area in the top 10.

North Carolina in general and the Triangle specifically, have the kind of quality of life Amazon seeks: a diverse community; a variety of top recreational and educational opportunities and excellent institutions of higher education.

The area could, over the project’s 10-year timetable, provide the office space. The Research Triangle Park Foundation is already hard at work figuring it out.

The area has a highly educated and skilled workforce to fill jobs with a projected annual compensation of more than $100,000.

The Park Center project, a mix of residential and office sites, fits the profile Amazon seeks, said Michael Pittman, RTP Foundation vice president for marketing and communications. “The Park Center project would be perfect.”

Amazon’s specs also seek information on incentive programs available for the project at the state and local level – for land, tax credits, workforce grants and other needs. A project of this scale far exceeds the kinds of current incentive limits. Lawmakers need to rethink those limits and seize an opportunity that may not come our way again for years.”

A project the scale that Amazon is proposing could justify a large incentives package – particularly considering the benefits of adding 10s of thousands of high-wage earners to the state economy. It is an investment – not a give-away -- that comes with a return. Prudent investors look at each opportunity and assess the potential benefits and risks.

Additionally, the state rightly ties most of its incentives to performance. A company doesn’t get funding if it doesn’t produce the jobs promised.

But North Carolina is already handicapped -- not by the lack of incentives, but by politics. Commentators, locally and nationally, have been quick to point out the North Carolina legislature’s antipathy toward many high-tech ventures.

Many of these firms, such as Amazon, were vocal and in the forefront of condemning one of the pet projects of the legislature’s leadership – House Bill 2. The legislative leadership has been quick to blame these companies, not themselves, for the damaging blow to North Carolina’s reputation – not to mention the jobs missed and other hits to the state and local economies.

Legislators, including Senate Leader Phil Berger and Budget Chairman Sen. Harry Brown, personally sought to kill the $400 million Amazon wind farm project – a renewable energy project that has brought much-needed work and tax revenue to the financially-strapped northeastern part of the state.

The effort failed, though last-minute legislation imposed an 18-month moratorium on new wind projects.

What’s done is done. Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has promised to “relentlessly pursue every opportunity.” The General Assembly should join in the effort to lure Amazon to North Carolina.

The General Assembly can seize the opportunity by making it clear they support the efforts of the governor and the Research Triangle Foundation – and will back them with legislation if needed, to meet the criteria Amazon has outlined.

It would be foolish and arrogant for legislative leaders to turn up their noses at this opportunity to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the state.

This moment is unique; it is an opportunity for the legislative leaders to change their tune about Amazon. We’ll be listening for a more appealing chorus.

9 Comments

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  • Glenda Hightower Sep 17, 8:26 a.m.
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    What "other side" of the story are you talking about? To want a company such as Amazon to come here with 50,000 - let me say that again - 50,000 jobs is an "extreme liberal slant"? Please tell us the down side of this. Is it the incentives that we have always in the past given companies wanting to locate here? What is the problem as you see it?

  • Teddy Fowler Sep 12, 12:27 p.m.
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    We don't dislike opinions that are honest and at least on occasion provide the other side of the story.... These opinions ALWAYS give only one side... the extreme liberal slant....

  • Teddy Fowler Sep 12, 12:25 p.m.
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    You guys keep talking smack about those of us not liking WRAL liberal only opinion pieces..... and there you are complaining about us and commenting about it.... Don't you have anything better to to than browse comments from sources that you hate? See I can say stupid things too.....

  • Colin Burch III Sep 12, 11:56 a.m.
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    Will the quality of life (traffic, schools, cost of living, etc) of current NC/RTP residents be improved if Amazon locates a large facility here?

    Should the density of the greater RTP area be significantly increased by adding such a large presence?

    Should the government(s) offer Amazon special dispensations not available to other businesses to bribe them to locate here?

  • Nick Edwards Sep 12, 11:00 a.m.
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    In the scheme of things, it really doesn't make a difference whether Amazon / Jeff Bezos decide to build here or not. NC has the 28th largest economy in the world. Equal to the country of Norway. Despite the grumblings about hb2 last year and threats to boycott NC, the state has continued to grow economically. Bottom line, if Amazon decides to play politics and make ridiculous demands in exchange for building here, our current state legislature isn't going play that game. And they shouldn't.

  • Nick Edwards Sep 12, 10:39 a.m.
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    It's called freedom of speech. The author of the editorial is entitled to his / her opinion. So are the people reading it and commenting on it. This is a fundamental constitutional right that alot of lefties seem to not understand very well.

    Anyway, if Amazon decides to build here, that's great. It means jobs and tax revenue for the state.

  • Rodney Hill Sep 12, 9:51 a.m.
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    Someone needs to take a tolerance class.

  • Rodney Hill Sep 12, 8:42 a.m.
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    This. At WRAL apparently "Opinion" really means "the liberal view". HB2 was stupid, I agree, but if AMZN goes somewhere else it won't be because of that. Focus on the opportunity, not on last year's politics.

    While I'd love to have Amazon come here (50,000 tech jobs!), they probably won't because both RDU and CLT are really too small to absorb that type of major operation. I'm hearing estimates of $35bil/yr in direct impact. That's just crazy.

    I think RDU is a great area and would be perfect for a project 25% of this size. But at this scale, I think it may cause some major negative side effects:

    Other RDU companies will lose tech talent to AMZN.
    Traffic will most definitely increase.
    The whole region will be very tied to one employer. (Look how that's gone in areas where said giant employer pulled out).

    But there are good things too, it would cement RDU as a major tech hub, maybe second to SJC in tech jobs.

  • Teddy Fowler Sep 12, 6:58 a.m.
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    Even something that should be positive... you pretty much turn it into a negative...