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Don’t be seduced, N.C. job recruiters

She’s attractive and flashy, and she has suitors going ga-ga, whistling at her, showing her bling and offering her anything she wants.

She’s Boeing, and she’s so desired that she can reject $9 billion in tax incentives from her current beau – Washington state – and set a dozen states off, each scrambling to outshine the others.

North Carolina should resist the trophy-wife temptation and stick with its original love: A business-friendly environment, a sound education system, strong infrastructure and a diverse economy built in large part on small business. That’s not as sexy as Boeing and its 8,000 promised jobs, but it’s something you can grow old with.

Tuesday was the reported deadline for states to bid for Boeing’s new plant where the aerospace company will begin manufacturing the 777X, a wide-body passenger jet. State officials did not say whether they entered the beauty contest, but Charlotte and at least two other N.C. regions were said to be organizing an effort. Sources told the Observer that Charlotte leaders were assembling about 370 acres south of Charlotte Douglas International Airport as a potential plant site.

They should stop. If the incentives game is an “arms race,” like politicians call it as they throw up their hands, then the chase for Boeing marks an escalation to the nuclear level. The Washington state legislature offered Boeing $8.7 billion to stay. That was the largest incentive package in U.S. history. But it wasn’t enough once Boeing’s main union rejected a cost-cutting contract. That’s when the company started flirting.

Missouri threw together a $1.7 billion incentives package and other states are frantically working behind the scenes to outbid that.

This isn’t just business. This is a shakedown, and Charlotte and North Carolina should have nothing to do with it. Many analysts believe the plant will stay in Washington, and these negotiations are aimed at getting Boeing a better deal there.

Either way, North Carolina loses by making a big bid. Boeing has demonstrated that massive financial incentives don’t buy its loyalty, and there’s every reason to think North Carolina would be forced to repeatedly offer more incentives and make state policy changes to appease its new master. Besides, why should Boeing get such a massive amount while the existing businesses born and raised here get comparatively trifling amounts, if any?

The billions Boeing seeks would be better spent on education, transportation and health – qualities that make the state attractive to businesses that will create far more than 8,000 jobs.

And if North Carolina doesn’t win the plant? It will still have sent a message to future prospects that we have the money to buy job promises, but not the money to pay our teachers, educate our kids or care for the sick and elderly.

Best-selling author Ken Blanchard spoke at a Charlotte breakfast Tuesday. He talked, among other things, about husbands and wives who discover their spouses have flaws so then seek new partners who don’t. That approach is doomed to fail, Blanchard said.

Boeing is looking for a new partner. North Carolina should look the other way.

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