Mayors meet on Triad Today

by Jim Longworth

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Winston Salem Mayor Allen Joines had met briefly a couple of times, but not until last week had they ever been interviewed together.

The pairing occurred when they stopped by the WXLV studio to tape an extended segment for Triad Today.

We covered a lot of ground during our 12-minute session, beginning with a discussion about recent rumors that the drone industry was looking to locate in Greensboro or Winston Salem. Given public outcry about NSA spying, I wondered if the Mayors would welcome an industry that manufactures high tech, armed surveillance equipment.

Vaughan: We have not had any discussions with the drone industry at this point, so I’m not sure what plans they might have for Greensboro. We would like to bring economic development out to the airport, but I’m just not sure that’s the type of development we’re looking for.

Joines: Certainly we’re looking for jobs, and that’s a legal industry, but I think we would need to look at what the parameters of the investment might be.

Meanwhile, the Mayors touted two projects that are far from controversial. For Joines it’s the Innovation Quarter.

Joines: That’s one of our big economic engines. At 240 acres we think it’s the largest urban research park in the country. Right now we have over 3,000 people working there, and we have another 2,000 people living in and around the Quarter. We think within the next 15 years we’ll have as many as 15,000 people working there.

For Vaughan, it’s the newly approved Performing Arts Center, which is slated to open by June of 2016.

Vaughan: I think it will be a huge economic catalyst. Thirty million dollars will be taxpayer funded, and $35 million in private investment. It is significant that the private sector stepped up to make that kind of contribution to the community.

Vaughan’s pride over private sector funding was understandable, especially since here in the Triad, so much of our development involves incentives. Speaking of which, I wondered if the two Mayors would like to do away with incentives that mostly just shift jobs from one locality to another.

Vaughan: Unfortunately incentives are a necessary evil, and if you want to be in the game, you’ve got to play the game. If the federal government wanted to step forward and say ‘no more incentives anywhere’, and we all had to bid on jobs based on our own merits, which would be great. But until that happens, we’re going to have to look at some sort of economic incentives in order to be competitive.

Joines: I agree. If we stopped doing it, it would be like disarming ourselves unilaterally. However, the way we structure incentives is pay as you go, or pay to perform. And we use new taxes from that company to make incentive payments, so it’s not coming out of city coffers.

Then came the big news. Years ago Joines and then Mayor Keith Holliday appeared on Triad Today together, and announced that they had a verbal agreement in place not to bid against each other when a company is threatening to move from Greensboro to Winston, or vice versa. I was encouraged to hear that Joines and Vaughan would carry on that tradition.

Joines: Yes that was a gentleman’s agreement that we don’t work against each other. If a company in Greensboro is trying to get us to make a proposal to try and get them to move to Winston Salem, we always say no.

Vaughan: I would agree. Mayor Joines and I were at a conference last week which talked about regionalism and the importance of working together, and not against each other. Certainly it doesn’t serve any of us if we start driving the price up against each other.

Toward the end of the interview I asked Vaughan and Joines to talk about the most rewarding part of their job.

Joines: To me it’s seeing a project to completion, like the new ballpark.

Vaughan: For me it’s just being out in different communities and building relationships. I love local politics because that’s where you can have the biggest impact.

In fact, both Mayors have already had a big impact on their respective cities, and after speaking with them, it’s easy to see why.

They are honest, likeable, competent, and hard working. Most of all, they discharge their duties in a bipartisan manner. Those qualities have kept Joines in office for over a dozen years, and may do the same for Vaughan.

Vaughan: I would certainly like the ability to continue to serve a few more terms. The last couple of Mayors haven’t been quite so fortunate, so I hope that I’m going to break the jinx.

I’m pretty sure she will. !

WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW with Mayors Joines and Vaughan on Triad Today, Saturday at 7:30am on abc45 and Sunday at 11am on MY48.