As Lexington’s world-class hardware store shows, every town, city and state has distinct attributes that deserve appreciation. This month’s issue includes commentaries from the mayors of Asheville and Blowing Rock attesting to the strengths of their communities. But talk can be cheap. Unfortunately, the more common impulse seems to be a back-stabbing rivalry between states and regions, and between urban, suburban and rural areas.
Our new columnist, Ken Otterbourg, makes that point in discussing the North Carolina vs. South Carolina donnybrook over attracting jobs. (Fortunately, he backs our state, else we wouldn’t let him write.) Separately, Senior Contributing Editor Ed Martin tackles the thorny issue of regional cooperation in the Triad, which at times features regional dysfunction.
Economic development isn’t for pansies, making conflict inevitable, as Ed and Ken explain. It’s evident every day at my well-situated office park, which like other south Mecklenburg County sites has lost tenants and momentum to South Carolina. It’s a two-way street; Sealed Air Corp. is moving hundreds of jobs from New Jersey and South Carolina to Charlotte, as our story on top economic-development projects shows. As long as cities, regions and nations don’t develop more equitable tax systems, and industry recruiters get paid for success within strict boundaries, expanding businesses will keep fleecing the feuding municipalities and put more of the burden on local businesses and individual taxpayers. A little more cooperation might go a long way.
During my career, I’ve lived and worked in our state’s three biggest cities. Each has enviable strengths: Raleigh’s intellectual vibe, Charlotte’s vibrant downtown, Greensboro’s livability. Yet for every compliment about a peer, I hear 20 criticisms: Charlotte has no soul. Greensboro is boring. Raleigh is overrun with bureaucrats. Mutual respect seems as rare as a cool day in July.
Business North Carolina is agnostic on these rivalries. We want the whole state to thrive. There’s a better chance of that occurring with more teamwork and greater appreciation of each other’s strengths — like at that cool hardware store in Lexington.