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NC leaders point fingers as SC snags manufacturing plant
Thursday, 06 October 2011 18:52

(RALEIGH) -- The loss of a tire manufacturing plant to South Carolina ignited a partisan blame game among North Carolina state leaders.

Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco said Republican Senate leaders were unwilling to fund a $45 million incentive package for Continental Tire that would have brought an estimated 1,300 jobs to Brunswick County. He said GOP lawmakers were philosophically opposed to idea of giving the company that much money up front.

“Philosophy is one thing, but the real world of competition and what other states are doing today is reality,” said Crisco. “We need to play the game unless we have a national policy against it.”

Crisco said Continental executives repeatedly guaranteed him and legislative leaders that the company would choose North Carolina over its neighbor to the south, provided that lawmakers approve the incentive package. Senate president Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said there were ethical questions about the deal because it would have enriched a group of landowners that included Sen. Michael Walter, D-Robeson, and other supporters of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign.
 
“Pay-to-play politics in North Carolina, unfortunately, is something that we’ve seen time and time again,” Berger said at a news conference. “It has got to stop. This time it has cost us jobs. It’s embarrassing to our state. It is something we will not allow to the extent we have any control over.”

Perdue was not available for comment Thursday, but her office rejected Berger’s claims that the deal was unethical. “I didn’t have any involvement in the site selection process, and it didn’t matter to me what piece of land the company selected, as long as the 1,300 jobs came to North Carolina,” Perdue said in a prepared statement.

Berger said his office began questioning Perdue and other commerce officials about the land ownership as early as August of this year, but they downplayed his concerns. “I think the fact that they see that, and they don’t it’s a problem is the problem,” he added.

Perdue spokeswoman Chris Mackey said Republican leaders are simply trying to shift the blame.

“As late as September 20th, the Senate directed the governor to go ahead and make a cash offer,” Mackey noted. “So if they had ethical concerns, they certainly seemed to get over it.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, refused to place blame for the loss of the manufacturing plant. However, he promised lawmakers would look at the areas where the economic development process was flawed and attempt to fix it.

“There is no reason at all that Continental should be going to South Carolina,” Tillis concluded. “North Carolina had a compelling business case and folks didn’t step up and get it done.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 00:00
 
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