Local Politics

Easley's Development Record Defended

Posted May 4, 2007 6:27 p.m. EDT

— State officials on Friday criticized an audit that questioned Gov. Mike Easley's leadership in economic development.

A state audit released this week said Easley needed to do more to support development efforts statewide. It quoted economic developers who complained the governor doesn't show up for important events and that he needs to be more of a cheerleader.

Easley couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but Secretary of Commerce Jim Fain slammed the audit. He said Easley is good with clients and pushed lawmakers to pass major tax incentive packages to help lure companies.

"The governor took the lead when it was hard to do," said Fain, who was appointed by Easley. "I think Mike Easley will be known as one of North Carolina's finest economic development governors."

When Dell announced it was building a new computer plant in Forsyth County, Easley was there, Fain noted. The governor also was present to celebrate new jobs at Merck's vaccine plant in Durham, he said.

The Governor's Office boasts that 90,000 jobs were created in North Carolina in the last year. Site Selection Magazine has consistently named the state as one of the top places in the country to locate or expand a business, citing quality of life and education.

"The proof's in the pudding," Fain said.

The audit highlights Easley's management style, which some Democrats also have found questionable, Democratic political consultant Brad Crone said. Easley has the talent to light up a room, but often chooses to isolate himself instead -- a major departure from former Govs. Jim Hunt and Jim Martin, he said.

"He is a hands-off, not a micro manager, a macro manager, and he's built a wall between himself and the Democratic Party," Crone said. "He is a different duck when it comes to being governor."