John Lassiter is joining the chorus of officials calling for the N.C. General Assembly to pass a new incentives bill, which he said is essential to keep the state competitive in the race to lure companies.
Speaking at the Charlotte Rotary Club Tuesday, Lassiter, chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said the delay is hurting North Carolina’s chance to attract businesses.
“Politics aside, the market is now beginning to say North Carolina is not willing to compete,” said Lassiter, who is a former Charlotte City Council member and president of Carolina Legal Staffing. “You can’t bring an auto plant without (incentives). You can’t bring a corporate headquarters without it.”
Although the state House passed a version of the incentives bill supported by Gov. Pat McCrory that would extend tax reimbursements for companies that relocate to North Carolina, the Senate has its own version. The Senate version would put less money into the tax reimbursements while lowering corporate taxes sharply. The McCrory administration has opposed the Senate bill and urged leaders to pass something closer to the House version.
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Lassiter said he’s optimistic the tax credits – considered essential by economic developers – will be passed in the coming weeks. That’s still behind the administration’s timetable: McCrory had hoped for passage in the opening weeks of the legislative session, three months ago.
The partnership Lassiter chairs is a nonprofit that opened last year to take over job recruiting duties from the state Commerce Department. Funded largely with tax dollars and a smaller amount of private donations, the partnership is in charge of marketing North Carolina to businesses around the world.
Lassiter said South Carolina remains a major competitor – and one that uses incentives more freely to attract big manufacturers, such as automakers.
“South Carolina has always been better at promoting and developing manufacturing than North Carolina,” said Lassiter. “They’re not particularly good in the service sector ... We’re not going to get into the game where all we want to do is throw money at the manufacturing facilities, but we do need to get into the automobile space.”