Alternate visions for the state's prosperity

It's too bad the whole state couldn't listen in Tuesday when North Carolina's gubernatorial candidates aired their ideas on how to grow the state's economy.

In some ways, it was hard to tell the Republican nominee, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, from the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue.

Yet as the two hopefuls spoke – separately – and answered questions at a meeting of the state's economic developers in Concord, differences emerged. These two experienced leaders covered a lot of ground, from what they will look for in a commerce secretary to whether – and how – to streamline the environmental permitting process for business and industry. In many respects, such as the use of incentives to attract jobs, the differences are nuanced.

Yet there's a fundamental difference in their visions that voters should find insightful:

Mr. McCrory wants to grow the state's economy primarily by cutting key taxes, expanding existing businesses and strengthening transportation.

Ms. Perdue wants to focus on building knowledge in workers, tying the state's workforce to the global economy and helping small towns.

Here are some of the specific differences:

Mr. McCrory said a top objective for recruiting would be retaining jobs that are already in the state by building relationships with existing small and medium businesses.

Ms. Perdue wants to build North Carolina's connection to the global economy by pursuing businesses with ties to defense, aerospace, energy and biotechnology.

Mr. McCrory stresses cutting the state's income and corporate taxes to attract new business.

Ms. Perdue favors targeted adjustments in the corporate tax structure that would help small businesses.

Mr. McCrory wants to develop a 50-year transportation plan.

Ms. Perdue wants to revitalize small towns and cities using historic preservation and incentives to attract entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Mr. McCrory wants to marry the state's education strategy to job creation by expanding vocational education in high schools, community colleges and universities. He would tie money for that to how many employees for high-need jobs they graduate.

Ms. Perdue wants to focus education resources on job redevelopment by training workers who can constantly adapt and learn new skills.

Mr. McCrory supports development of natural gas supplies that may be off the state's coast; Ms. Perdue, who has stated varying positions on offshore drilling, favors exploration only.

These differences don't tell voters everything they need to know. But they do offer a helpful picture of how each, as governor, might go about an important part of that job: creating jobs, strengthening the state's work force and expanding its wealth.