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Charlotte Chamber head: No need to panic over jobs lost to SC counties

A day after Charlotte and North Carolina officially lost thousands of jobs to counties just south of the border, the head of the Charlotte Chamber said there’s no need for panic.

Bob Morgan, the chamber’s CEO, confirmed that Charlotte tried to keep health care consulting firm Lash Group and LPL Financial from moving all or most of their operations from the Queen City to Fort Mill, S.C.

The state also tried to win the first North American factory for Giti Tire, the Singapore-based firm that picked Chester County, S.C., for its $560 million plant.

The three projects, unveiled Monday by a jubilant S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, will bring at least 3,900 and perhaps eventually up to 7,100 jobs to Chester and York counties, just south of Charlotte and the state line.

Morgan said Charlotte remains a growing, attractive city for industry and stressed that Charlotte’s resources – including Charlotte Douglas International Airport – drive growth throughout the region.

“Charlotte does not need to hold its head down,” he told reporters at the chamber’s headquarters. “This is life in the big leagues. We’re a large urban area. We’re going to continue to see companies moving across county lines, moving across state lines.”

He noted that in some cases, companies move from surrounding counties to Charlotte. He mentioned the Charlotte Knights baseball team, which had played in Fort Mill but this year opened a new stadium uptown.

He said Charlotte lost the Lash Group and LPL Financial expansion projects because South Carolina could give the firms incentives for both their current workforce and for the new workers they expect to add.

North Carolina gives incentives to North Carolina companies only for new workers. Lash Group expects to double its 1,200 workers; LPL projects tripling its 1,000 in the years ahead.

“We weren’t in the ballpark” with our offer, Morgan said.

With similar economic development rules in place in both states, he said, South Carolina would face the same disadvantage when trying to keep its firms from moving to Charlotte.

John Lassiter, the head of the N.C. Economic Development Board, has said the state lost out on the Giti Tire plant in part because it lacks the kind of flexible, aggressive “closing fund” South Carolina used to spend $37.8 million on buying and preparing the factory’s land.

Asked if North Carolina has the right tools to win job-recruitment wars, Morgan characterized North Carolina’s incentives as “moderately aggressive, appropriately aggressive.”

He added, however, that Monday’s jobs announcements should give pause to North Carolina lawmakers who want tighter limits on the state’s job development grants, which reward companies based on the number of workers they hire.

The General Assembly’s move last year to lower corporate and personal income tax rates is good, Morgan said, but isn’t enough to give the state the edge it needs.

“It’s not enough to simply cut taxes,” he said. “These deals are driven by the incentives that are offered.”

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