McCrory makes his case to Triangle business leaders

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Gov. Pat McCrory answers questions during the Triangle Business Journal's Power Breakfast on Aug. 26.

CARY, N.C — Gov. Pat McCrory participated in a discussion with Triangle area business leaders on Friday to discuss the economy and make his case for reelection to a second term.The breakfast event, hosted by the Triangle Business Journal at the Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, covered a range of economic topics ranging from H.B. 2 effects on business to corporate recruiting incentives, infrastructure and taxes.The question-and-answer discussion with business leaders was originally intended to include Democrat gubernatorial nominee and current Attorney General Roy Cooper, as well. However, according to the Triangle Business Journal’s event planning team, Cooper never accepted their invitation for the proposed event on economic issues in front of local business leaders.McCrory was greeted by a standing ovation before pointing to progress in economic and government efficiency he has helped realize since taking office in 2013, evidenced by the state’s approximately $400 million budget surplus.”We’ve got the fourth-fastest growing economy right here in North Carolina,” said McCrory. “We ought to be proud of it, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”As a result of that growth, McCrory said there are things the state should be doing to prepare itself for heightened economic activity, among them investments in infrastructure he has long proposed.”We’re going to be dealing with growing pains, not dying pains when it comes to infrastructure,” he said. While McCrory has already spearheaded the $2 billion Connect NC bond proposal, which voters passed in the spring, instead of direct investments in transportation, the funds were dedicated to infrastructure and building improvements in the University of North Carolina and North Carolina community college systems.However, McCrory explained pressure from factions within the General Assembly guided the spending priorities away from roads, yielding the current project list.”I failed in my effort to put transportation on the bonds,” said McCrory. “It was kind of an interesting political coalition that got in the way of that, but we can get into that later. Part of the coalition was the universities wanted even more money and we also had a coalition of business people that wanted more money in the maintenance and operation of roads.”McCrory said he was determined to pass transportation bonds during a second term.”If I’m reelected as governor, I’m going to bring it right back up to the legislature,” he said. “You know the growth is going to continue at a pace, which is going to be much beyond our interstate capacity. We’ve got to plan for that network now.”Beyond the anticipated growth in North Carolina’s future, McCrory said many of the state’s chances to win more competitive big development projects that bring significant jobs, like the CSX intermodal hub in Rocky Mount, depends on the level of infrastructure available.McCrory told the group of business leaders that the port system is the weakest link in attracting those big companies, because surrounding states like South Carolina and Virginia have such comparably accessible and comprehensive port facilities. Such was the case when Charleston, South Carolina, beat out North Carolina’s offer for a Volvo expansion.Further, McCrory said financial incentives are also needed to attract investment, especially in targeting the rural areas of the state that could use the boost the most. While he said he prefers utilizing incentives for manufacturing jobs, the different regions’ economic dynamics make some incentives more effective than others.”In the Charlotte area, we don’t have a need for new call centers,” said McCrory. “If it’s a call center for Rocky Mount, we’re probably talking about an incentive.”When asked about what he would tell business owners that may have been affected by H.B. 2 fall out, McCrory reiterated his deference to the volition of private business owners in this area.”I’m going to do what’s right,”said McCrory. “I do not believe it is government’s responsibility to tell the private sector what your bathroom or shower or locker room policy should be.”More than anything, McCrory rested his case to the business leaders for reelection on fiscal and economic results he attributed to the Republicans’ tax and regulatory reforms over the last several years.”What it’s doing is making us more competitive,” said McCrory of lowering corporate tax rates, citing growth in private sector jobs and dismissing his opponent Cooper’s characterization of them as “corporate giveaways.” McCrory also boasted about the successive budget surpluses and chided those who had predicted revenue misses and deficits as a result of the expansive tax cuts.Even though Cooper chose not to make his own case to the business crowd Friday, North Carolinians will undoubtedly hear from both candidates over the airwaves in the days and weeks ahead. A televised debate has also been agreed to the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 18.