RALEIGH, N.C. — A Research Triangle Park firm will create 300 new jobs over the next five years, thanks in part to a tax break offered by the state, but is the employment picture in the state as good as it appears?
Cree Inc. makes LED chip products used in cell phones, vehicle dashboards and various indoor-outdoor displays.
Company officials say Cree will begin expanding its semiconductor production this fall at an undetermined site in Durham County. Gov. Mike Easley announced the decision Tuesday, saying the jobs will pay around $50,000 a year plus benefits.
From January to June, the state has logged a net gain of 72,000 jobs, mainly in professional services. But from the start of Easley's administration in 2001 until June 2004, the state has actually lost a total of 51,000, mainly in manufacturing.
Easley blames federal trade policies, but said the state is now recruiting more stable jobs for the future.
"Our advantage in the world economy in America is innovation and creativity. As long as we continue to do that, then we will sustain those jobs," he said.
Republican Patrick Ballantine said the people of North Carolina need to look deeper than just Easley's announcements. He said, "I applaud all these high-paying jobs, but you have to take a look at the whole job picture, which is a huge net loss of jobs."
The state is being recognized for being business-friendly. Three years in a row, Site Selection Magazine has ranked North Carolina No. 1 for its business climate. The Bureau of Labor said the state is third in the nation for job creation.
Cree officials said they also looked at expanding in Virginia and outside the United States. They chose North Carolina to benefit from a Job Development Investment Grant that could net the company just over $5 million over 11 years. Cree will have to meet certain job-creation targets to reap the benefit.
Cree formed in 1987 when a group of students licensed patents on technology developed at North Carolina State University. The company employs more than 900 workers at RTP and has offices in California.