ELLIOT: Copeland in dreamland

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland attends an economic development announcement at theNorth Carolina state Capitol on Feb. 20

North Carolina, as you may have heard, has won the 2017 Prosperity Cup, an award for economic competitiveness based on objective data compiled annually by Site Selection magazine. The Tarheel State is on a three-year run at the top of the listings (although the 2016 honor was shared with Texas).The ranking itself is a combination of factors. They include total new and expanded facilities, total capital investment in new and expanded facilities, total new jobs created, state tax climate as ranked by the Tax Foundation, and performance in the Beacon Hill Institute’s State Competitiveness Index.The rankings are an indicator of past performance — who landed the jobs — rather than a guide for companies looking to relocate or expand. In other words, it’s a measure of accomplishment, not a “best state to move your business to” list.Site Selection’s editor-in-chief, Mark Arend, had a little fun writing the state’s profile for the May issue of the magazine, contrasting the objective data with the national headlines North Carolina garnered in 2016.North Carolina taking home the Prosperity Cup would come as a “shock to some,” Arend wrote, meaning those who saw only the media’s obsession with House Bill 2:”National sporting events booked at North Carolina venues bailed, some companies pulled the plug on expansions or relocations, and the lights went out in the state as a destination for capital investment.”Well, the last part didn’t actually happen — not by a long shot.”In fact, North Carolina ranked fourth nationally in total new and expanded facility announcements for 2016 in Site Selection’s March 2017 Governor’s Cup ranking, with 289 projects. It ranked seventh nationally in the per capita Governor’s Cup tally of projects for the year — these performances are unchanged from the previous year.”But don’t tell that to Anthony Copeland, Gov. Roy Cooper’s commerce secretary. His own dream-like obsession with H.B. 2 apparently continues, based on his comments in the magazine:”When Gov. Cooper brought me in to work with him, his first priority was to reverse the damage that had happened with H.B. 2,” he said. After detailing all the work Cooper did to get the bill repealed, Copeland concludes that “…by and large the global corporate world is ready to get back to work in North Carolina.”And evidently, it’s not just the repealed H.B. 2 that keeps Copeland up at night. The secretary, who has worked in economic development for many years, detailed a litany of woes, starting with Amendment 1, the creation of the public-private partnership for economic development, and the fight over corporate incentives.But not to worry. “Corporate investors,” Copeland says, “now are saying they are ready to move forward.”To be fair to Copeland, he couldn’t know that Arend was going to destroy his argument before dropping in the quote, and he may have made other (perhaps coherent) comments that Arend didn’t include.To recap: the state has been tops in these rankings for three straight years. The rankings just released don’t have anything to do with the H.B. 2 repeal — they are based on 2016 performance. The battle over Amendment 1 ended in 2014. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina started work in 2014. Funding for incentives ran out in 2014 and was replenished in 2015. H.B. 2 was on the books for most of 2016. Yet the state’s competitiveness ranking has not been surpassed by any other for the period January 2014 – December 2016.Copeland’s shaky grasp on chronology makes Donald Trump look like a history professor.Remember when former Gov. Pat McCrory and John Skvarla, his commerce secretary, were laughed at when they said that the impact of H.B. 2 would prove negligible to the state’s economy? As more and more data comes in from 2016, it appears many in the state, especially in the news media, owe them an apology.Nearly all businesses choose where to locate for business reasons, not politics or social commentary. North Carolina is No. 2 in Forbes’ Best States for Businesses for 2016, and it is No. 1 in Ernst & Young’s rating for lowest state and local business tax burden for 2016.No matter some leaders’ detached fantasies to the contrary, North Carolina has done the right things for business. The jobs are following.
Drew Elliot is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.