What happens on Jones Street will be felt on Main Street

Published 12:53 am Friday, January 5, 2007

By Staff
There are moments when residents feel justifiably removed from the processes on Raleigh’s Jones Street, home of the Legislative Building and the halls roamed by members of our General Assembly. But there is one issue that will be on the radar for North Carolina legislators in a matter of days — and its impact cannot be ignored here at home.
The factors that determine a county’s economic status — and particularly what is to become of the state’s poorest Tier One counties — may depend on the N.C. Department of Commerce report to be issued in a couple of weeks. That may sound like a bunch of bureaucratic bunk, but the effect of that report will be felt at local doorsteps — from Summit Avenue in Washington to Styons Road in Plymouth and from Mimosa Lane in Williamston to Main Street in Swan Quarter.
A county’s economic status is important because it determines what kinds of “come-here” incentives are offered to business owners that are looking for a place to nest. Whether they are looking for a place to put down roots or are looking to expand operations, business owners often need a nudge to give our counties more than just a passing glance.
Some of you are likely reading this in your bathrobes before you get your children out of bed to get ready for school. Some of you are reading it between swallows of coffee and bites of toast before you dash off to work in the real world, and you may think that whatever happens in the bureaucratic halls of Raleigh won’t really have much impact on what happens to you.
But it could.
In Tier One counties — including Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties — businesses receive tax credits for jobs created. Those credits may mean the difference in the choice to come here or go to one of the larger “Piedmont types,” as Beaufort County economic developer Tom Thompson calls them.
And jobs created here have a direct impact on those of you who are dashing off to work — or looking for work. Jobs created are infusions for the tax base, which means less of a burden on local pocketbooks.
And jobs created certainly mean something for the children you are about to awake to get ready for school. Those jobs could be the difference between them being able to live here when they grow up or having to relocate.
When the Legislature approved the Lee Changes bill during the short session, leaders nodded to creating more “poor” counties. That means that the Tier Ones that have always been Tier Ones are now competing against new “poor” counties that used to be considered at least a little better off than the poorest of the poor.
To help ease that new burden, the Legislature included bill language that charged the Department of Commerce to work with the N.C. Rural Center to “develop additional strategies to enhance economic growth and development in economically distressed areas.”
Part of that work was a meeting in Beaufort County to hear from local voices about economic needs. Department of Commerce Secretary Jim Fain was here last month to meet with Thompson and others.
We hope Fain came away with a clear perspective of life “where the rubber meets the road,” as Thompson said, and that Fain’s report will reflect that. Counties in the Daily News’ readership area have come a long way, but residents need good, sound, responsible decisions on this matter from Raleigh to ensure progress in the east.