RALEIGH, N.C. — An incentive package that is valued at $260 million over the next 30 years and that landed a $600 million Google data center for Caldwell County is the focus of an ongoing debate about the costs and benefits involved when governments use public dollars to go fishing for corporate investments in communities.
Critics of the Google deal argue that the math doesn't make sense. Supporters says it's the modern-day cost that state and local governments have to pay to compete for needed business and jobs.
The Google facility, which is expected to bring in 210 jobs, is going to a North Carolina county desperate for employment. With a powerful company like Google, supporters say, it is reasonable to hope for growth.
“I wish we could eliminate that poker game, but, as long as that poker game is going on, North Carolina unfortunately does have to be equipped with the tools that it takes to win and bring home resources to bring jobs to North Carolina,” said state Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake County.
“I think the Legislature needs to get out of this bidding war,” said state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake County.
The Google deal certainly not the first incentive package to draw fire. The Dell Inc. plant in Forsyth County promised 1,500 jobs in return for a chance to cancel close to $280 million in state and local taxes.
Another criticism of the Google deal has been that, by the time it became public, public money was already committed.
“These are tax dollars, public money, and the public's business ought to be done in public,” Dollar argues.
In a statement, Google defended the secrecy as necessary for competitive reasons.
Bob Phillips of North Carolina Common Cause lobbies the Legislature for open-government reforms.
“Obviously in economic development, you do need some confidentiality, but at the same time the public's interest needs to be protected,” Phillips said.
Google maintains North Carolina's incentives leveled the economic playing field among states and completed the company's search.