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On cows and free milk

by Eric Ginsburg

editorial

Economic incentives, we are told, are a necessary evil, a part of the way the game is played today, particularly here in the jobsstrapped Southeast, where, it seems, perks afforded to relocating companies are a matter not of “if” but of “how much.”

In the past, in this very space, we have bemoaned North Carolina’s readiness to offer free land, tax waivers, new roads and even changes in our tax code.

That was the case in 2009, when, after Apple began looking to build an East Coast data warehouse here, the NC General Assembly voted in favor of a change in the statutes that would give them a $300 million tax break over the next 30 years. Apple, a $300 billion company whose individual stock shares are valued at $333 each, announced it would build the server farm in one of our poorest 80 counties only after our state government changed our law, creating perhaps 250 jobs that have yet to be realized.

That was the case with FedEx in the Triad, which was the beneficiary of a $500 million incentives package, even though it seems to have under-delivered on its promise, with employment at about a third of its projected numbers.

And don’t even get us started on Dell, which in 2005 accepted $280 million in state and local incentives for a desktop-computer assembly plant which has since been closed.

In the past, in this very space, we have bemoaned North Carolina’s readiness to offer free land, tax waivers, new roads and even changes in our tax code.

That’s why we applauded American Express, which decided to build a $400 million data services center in Guilford County just eight months ago without actively seeking any incentives from the county or state. The center, a server farm, similar to the one proposed by Apple, would employ just 50 people. We thought perhaps the corporate-incentives game was winding down.

But then last week, just eight months after the data center deal went through, AmEx announced it would be closing a Guilford County call center that has been in operation since 1985 and employs 2,000 people.

Credit American Express with noticing a huge PR disaster in the making: Accepting the $13 million or so the county was planning to offer for a net creation of 50 jobs while simultaneously planning to axe 2,000 by closing a 25-year-old operation would have been… poor form, we suppose.

Meanwhile, unemployment hovers at a fraction above 10 percent in the Triad, no matter how much we ply the corporate citizens.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration

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