From an editorial Sunday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:
North Carolina had to survive a game of Ruger roulette to gain a firearms manufacturing facility in Rockingham County.
Connecticut-based Sturm, Ruger & Co. set its sights on a building in Mayodan but pushed for millions in state and local incentives to close the deal. To press its case, it loaded its chamber with a South Carolina bullet and a Texas bullet. Without the right offer from North Carolina, it might invest in one of those states, it said.
The negotiations for the lucrative development were revealed in a recent Associated Press report. It showed that, while Republican politicians often profess opposition to incentives, Gov. Pat McCrorys administration, supported by legislative leaders, was willing to make a deal.
The result is a good one. Ruger says it will invest $27 million and employ 470 workers earning average salaries of $45,000 at its Mayodan operation. This is a badly needed boost for Rockingham County, where the unemployment rate exceeds 9 percent.
Rockingham County is represented by state Senate leader Phil Berger, who was kept informed about the negotiations.
If it meets employment targets, Ruger can receive benefits worth $15.5 million from state and local governments. While any tax breaks will stretch resources in Mayodan and Rockingham County, and are inherently unfair to other companies that pay their full share of taxes, everyone still stands to gain in the long run.
Besides, compared to the states biggest incentives deals for Dell, FedEx and some others this is small caliber.
Even for Ruger executives, it apparently wasnt all about incentives. They were also interested in tax rates and the availability and cost of good workers. North Carolina fared well by those measures.
And then there was something oddly intangible. The company execs are less concerned about the actual amount, but they really would like to see more enthusiasm, local business recruiter Graham Pervier wrote to Berger in a June status report. They are very sensitive about being a gun manufacturer and could misconstrue the message.
That was a strange concern. North Carolina government leaders have proven their enthusiasm for guns by making it legal to carry them in more places than ever.
Yet, because its Southport, Conn., headquarters is only about 15 miles south of Newtown, the site of last years mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the climate there turned chillier for a firearms manufacturer. In North Carolina, where tobacco industry jobs are still valued, Ruger can expect a warm welcome. Most people understand it makes legal products used for hunting, target shooting and personal protection.
To make sure North Carolina workers got those jobs, state and local leaders were willing to play Ruger roulette. Theyll do it again and again.
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