Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue courted North Carolina's manufacturers Tuesday, promising they would do what they could as governor to improve the state's hospitality for business.
In one of their first joint appearances since winning their parties' nominations for governor May 6, the candidates called for the state's education systems to work closely with business. They differed on the details while heaping praise on their audience.
“You are the glue that holds us all together. Don't ever forget that I understand that,” said Perdue, a Democrat and the N.C. lieutenant governor since 2001.
“When I'm elected governor, this won't be the last time you see me,” said McCrory, a Republican and Charlotte's mayor.
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Their comments came in separate speeches delivered at the Grandover Resort to a meeting sponsored by the N.C. Chamber, the largest statewide business lobby in North Carolina.
The candidates head toward the November election with some polls showing a tight race. Support from business leaders often has a substantial impact on a gubernatorial candidate's ability to raise money and portray a moderate image.
In 2004, Democratic Gov. Mike Easley cruised to re-election after traveling the state to promote his program of targeted tax incentives for businesses that promised to create jobs.
“It's important that our governor have an ear to the things important to our businesses and manufacturers. I would say there are few things more important,” said Bill Johnson, chairman of the N.C. Chamber and the chief executive of Raleigh-based Progress Energy.
Speaking first, Perdue touted her role on a state board that focuses on the intersection of business needs and education programs. “I'm passionate about building the work force of the future here,” she said.
McCrory suggested that such boards are symptomatic of what he sees wrong in Raleigh. “As mayor, I did not create a board to have you come visit me to tell me what was happening in manufacturing,” he said. “I went out to visit you, firsthand.”