SKVARLA: Lets play Jeopardy! (Game Two) Category: the N.C. economy

The size, scope and complexity of North Carolina’s economy today is something even seasoned business people have trouble comprehending. I recently wrote a column explaining that our state’s gross domestic product ranks somewhere between that of Norway and Taiwan, that we’ve gained more residents in the last 15 years than now live in the entire state of Nebraska, and that small businesses employ about half our private-sector workers.There is much that fascinates me about North Carolina and its economy. Based on the positive feedback I’ve received from my earlier quiz I am clearly not alone. So I’ve compiled a few more facts and figures you may like to know about our state and its economy. Category is North Carolina’s economy.How does North Carolina’s economic growth stack up to the country?Since the end of 2012, the U.S. economy has grown by a total of 11.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). During the same period, North Carolina’s economy expanded by 15 percent. In fact, we currently rank No. 4 in the nation for GDP growth since the start of 2013.Innovation and hard work by North Carolina businesses and workers explain most of that success. But the impressive numbers also underscore the importance of regulatory and fiscal policy reforms undertaken by Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly. Our tax rates have fallen from the highest in the southeastern U.S. to the lowest, proving that when we let workers and businesses keep more of what they earn, they plow most of the savings right back into the economy. We transformed the culture of regulatory agencies from one that treated businesses as adversaries to that of service providers guiding companies through the byzantine maze of rules and laws in a way that achieves compliance without the frustrating red tape. Employers responded by growing and hiring. How have lower taxes impacted the state budget?Our vastly improved tax climate has led to upward revisions to the state’s revenue forecasts that were beyond even our most optimistic hopes. In the last two fiscal years, the state budget has enjoyed revenue surpluses totaling $775 million. At the same time, we improved our business climate ranking from 44th to 15th while also preserving our enviable bond rating. North Carolina, in fact, is one of only eight states with top credit ratings from Fitch, Moody’s and S&P. Effective management of the state’s finances has also shored up North Carolina’s rainy-day fund, which helps the state meet its obligations during downturns. When McCrory took office in 2013, the fund was valued at $419 million. As of June, it enjoyed a balance of $1.1 billion, the first time in state history that the Rainy Day fund has exceeded a billion dollars. How does North Carolina fare in the digital economy?We are the No. 2 state in the U.S. in terms of public investment in broadband infrastructure, according to the Strategic Networks Group, which assesses states for Internet quality. North Carolina ranks No. 9 in broadband deployment, with 52 of our 100 counties having deployment rates at or greater than the national average.High-speed Internet connects teachers and learners, physicians and patients, and governments with citizens. It is also a crucial link between businesses and their customers. The McCrory Administration is committed to broadband from Murphy to Manteo. One step involves using de-obligated federal CDBG funds by our Rural Infrastructure Authority to support under-served towns and counties.Connectivity — whether by sea, rail, highway or air — has long been a part of North Carolina’s economy. These days, those digital connections are vital to harnessing what is perhaps our state’s most valuable commodity: ideas.Arguably, North Carolina has the No. 1 performing economy in the United States. John E. Skvarla III is secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce.