Up front: North Carolina ranks at the top

 In Up Front

North Carolina’s winning ways didn’t end with the Tar Heels’ victory in the NCAA men’s  basketball tournament in April. May was a remarkable month for the state.

Site Selection magazine rated the state as the best business destination in the U.S., its third straight year atop the rankings.

The state’s key role in finance accelerated with Switzerland’s Credit Suisse and France’s AXA announcing a combined 1,750 jobs in the Triangle and Charlotte. Few states have such major bases of big finance companies: Bank of America, Barings, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity, MetLife, TIAA, Vanguard and Wells Fargo, among others.

The Triangle’s place as the center of the world drug-trials industry was solidified with INC Research’s $4.6 billion bid for Boston-based InVentiv. Like financial services, clinical-research jobs require more skills and pay much higher wages than most industries.

Politicians and promoters of all stripes seek glory for that success, but who is responsible shouldn’t matter. The roots of North Carolina’s attractiveness date back generations and span all political persuasions. Companies like our universities, which are popular with liberals and require hefty public support. Companies like our lower taxes, which conservatives promote.

Sustaining the success and devising ways to spread benefits more evenly, both geographically and socio-economically, is what counts, but there’s lots of work to be done. About 16% of North Carolinians had incomes below the poverty line — $24,250 for a family of four — in 2015. The state ranked 39th nationally, according to the Center for American Progress. Neighboring Virginia had an 11% rate.

We look forward to the day when we top that ranking.

* * *

My friend and colleague Jim Dodson is a celebrated, best-selling author, an unceasing lover of North Carolina — especially his hometown of Greensboro — and one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet. He oversees four of Business North Carolina’s sister publications and pens a story for us now and then.

What Jim lacks is a passion for politics, particularly the nastiness and mean-spirited tendencies. So it’s bizarre that he drew international attention in May as a figure in the never-ending Trump-Russia scandal.

In a Boston radio interview while promoting his latest book   — The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime — Jim was asked about his experience at a media event after the Trumps acquired a struggling golf course near Charlotte in 2013. Golf-course values were collapsing, so Jim asked Eric Trump where the family was securing its financing. Fair question, since The Point golf club was failing under the ownership of major American real-estate companies.

From Russians and other foreign investors, Eric Trump told Jim as they scooted around the course. It struck Jim as a noncontroversial answer, which he shared with several friends after the exchange.

Four years later, with millions of Americans believing our president is playing footsie with the Russians, Jim’s memory became big news. Instead of promoting his writing, which hopefully will earn Jim his third “best golf book of the year” honor from the U.S. Golf Association, he was answering questions on CNN and other media outlets.

Eric Trump now says Jim “fabricated” the comment and that the Trump family minimizes its dealings with the Russians.

While Jim wants the focus to turn to his book, he stands by his story. I believe him.

 

 

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