It could be another good year for growth

Robeson County made national news for increasing jobs. Please reread that line again.

According to Site Selection magazine, Lumberton ranked ninth in the nation in corporate investment in a micropolitan area (our micropolitan area includes all of Robeson County). Thank you, Sanderson Farms.

The magazine actually tracks major corporate projects rather than jobs, but corporate expansion usually means jobs. Overall North Carolina ranked fourth in the nation — and first in the Southeast — for attracting and expanding businesses in 2016 with 289 major projects. Surprisingly, we attracted more business projects than California. Some predicted that HB2 would have a negative impact on North Carolina’s economy, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with major expansions in areas such as the Triangle by blue-chip corporations including FEDEX, Fidelity Investments, IBM, Glaxosmithkline, and BlueCross BlueShield.

2016 was a banner year for North Carolina in so many respects. We continued the streak of increasing pay for teachers at a higher rate than any state in the nation for the fourth year. The various rainy day funds are all restored and our credit-worthiness is strong. Visitors love coming to our state. Every single month in 2016 set a record for that particular month in hotel and motel occupancy. Last year the rate charged for hotels also reached the highest price ever for North Carolina.

North Carolina ranked third in the nation for having a positive construction environment. More significantly for Robeson County, North Carolina ranked second in the nation behind Ohio for investments in micropolitan areas — those outside of Charlotte, the Triangle, the Triad, etc. Here it often feels as though the spoils always flow to the major metropolitan areas, but at least compared with other states, North Carolina’s growth was more dispersed.

All of this economic activity is so important because it allows us to continue to fund important governmental activities in our state such as public education and assisting the poor. Many states are unable to make adequate investments at this time. Ohio, mentioned above, is another economic miracle, but states such as Illinois are having difficulty funding basic services. I predict that in the next few years Illinois will be the first state to be declared officially insolvent.

I don’t know whether 2017 will bring another Sanderson Farms to Robeson County, but it is forecast to be another banner year for the state. Companies that have already announced moves to North Carolina this year include Alevo, Corning and Moen. In November Forbes magazine ranked North Carolina second in business climate for the future. Site Selection magazine also recently ranked North Carolina second going forward.

North Carolina’s performance is dramatically better than it was even five years ago, when we were ranked 26th in economic outlook. We need to maintain the positive policies that have accomplished this turnaround so we can keep the good times rolling and making our state even better.

Eric Dent is Endowed Chair Professor of Ethics at Florida Gulf Coast University.


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