Failure Is Not An Option
In 1994, I watched the debate in the legislature, on where the proposed Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant would be built. What happened? The State of Alabama would have the fi nal say in this matter. The same opportunity presented itself with the BMW plant, which would fi nd a home in South Carolina.
Since World War II, North Carolina has prided itself as the “Good Road State.’’ North Carolina’s most notable selling points were precisely the facts. We had more paved roads than most southern states, a fi rst-rate education system K-12 (because the State had taken over the School System during the fi rst Great Depression), tranquil vacations on the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and the beautiful coastal beaches for hundreds of miles down east. Our economy was driven by agricultural products, but tobacco was king. We were the furniture capitol of the world, and textile plants dotted the landscape. A very modern, sophisticated Research Triangle Park was thriving and growing on cutting-edge technology. We had it all!
Political leaders boasted “this is the place to be” to new industry. In 1995, we saw a major shift to Republican control of the House of Representatives and an opportunity to revisit the state’s public policies from a business perspective. Emphasis was placed on the question, “What can we do as a legislature to make North Carolina more business friendly and competitive with other states for Economic Development?” No one had done it like first-term Gov. Jim Hunt, who led a delegation to Japan to recruit new industry.
This continued with others, I went along with Gov. Jim Martin when he took a delegation to Japan. These men were after businesses that would bring jobs to North Carolina. In order to be competitive with other states, we had to give incentives to companies. Finally, through Gov. Hunt again, the language began to change. After much discussion, a Democratic governor and Senate with a Republican Speaker agreed on a bill that would offer various incentives for businesses that built plants, made capital investments and created jobs. This was new, acceptable bipartisan public policy that would forever change the way N.C. conducted business with taxpayers’ money; a policy in which I strongly advocated for and supported, against prevailing conventional wisdom. This bill was passed overwhelmingly by both parties in the general assembly. The William E. Lee Act marked a shift in public policy, allowing N.C. to receive hundreds of billions of dollars in investments, which created tens of thousands of new jobs for this state.
This brings us to BRAC, which we’ve heard so much about, with personnel upwards of 30,000 relocating to this area and thousands of jobs. In order to keep its military installations open, N.C. offered concessions to Congress, like forgiving the collection of gasoline taxes on fuel purchased on post. Locally, we should consider doing something similar to keep the regional postal service here in Fayetteville. When we were up against the closing of Kelly Springfield, the state’s policy was incentives for new businesses only! Many of us fought to change/amend the act to save jobs and modernize existing plants and equipment. Those 3,000 Kelly Springfield jobs would be in Mexico now if we had not done so. The leadership of Fayetteville needs to get behind this issue of post-office closings, or risk losing countless jobs that will not be replaced soon.
The state’s rainy day fund could offset costs and weigh the benefits of 500 jobs and the loss of a $200,000 million operation with contracts for local business. Everything I’ve said earlier related to taxpayer funds being used for the greater good of society, was to call attention to the face that everyone has to give up something to make this work.
To make this work, the local leadership, state legislative delegation, mayor, city council, county commissioners, our two U.S. Senators and local union need to come together and offer an incentive package for the Postal Services Commissioners to consider. To offer them nothing will most certainly mean the loss of a valuable community asset. In summation, the closing of post offices is more than the lost of 500 jobs, it is the loss of households and livelihoods for families. It is the loss of healthcare benefits. Failure is not an option!