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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sherwood Smith, March 23, 1999. Interview I-0079. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Local expansion of North Carolina businesses, with help from the government

Smith thinks that development in North Carolina has been well-distributed, in part because when a company gets a foothold in one part of the state, it can expand elsewhere. The state facilitates this expansion with road-building and support for education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sherwood Smith, March 23, 1999. Interview I-0079. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: Your remarks you’ve just made, suggest a further question that I wanted to ask and [it is a question that] we’re asking across this series [of interviews]. The development model that’s been in place in North Carolina here--. [There has been] a lot of support in the legislature and governor’s office for a certain type of economic growth and business friendly policies. That model, its success is manifested in all of the economic development that we’ve been spending our time talking about. Is the model encompassing in the way it’s reaching out to all North Carolinians to bring them along? In other words, what’s your perspective on how successful the model has been in distributing its advances all across North Carolina and to all North Carolinians? Are you happy with that? You’ve just been talking about the eastern part of the state and that’s what kind of reminded me. SS: Very good question. I think balanced growth across the state is the desire of the policy makers. It’s difficult to achieve because you have different levels of resources available -- educational, labor, and transportation [resources] -- in various parts of the state. The Research Triangle Park, for example, has been a great catalyst for development throughout the entire state. When IBM came in 1965, it was impossible to predict then, exactly what would happen then. But a few years later, IBM builds a big facility in Charlotte near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which enables their so-called “University Research Park” -- even though it’s not a Research Park, as such -- it’s manufacturing center to get started. When Burroughs-Wellcome came in, it was hard to predict what would happen. But later, in the eastern part of the state, you had Burroughs-Wellcome build a large manufacturing facility. And, of course, if you go in concentric circles outside the Park itself for the radius of fifty or sixty miles, it’s just enormous development. So, there have been some examples of how the development that’s been in an area that’s concentrated has helped development elsewhere. The eastern part of the state has a large population of people who are probably at the lower end of the economic ladder in North Carolina. Many of them are agricultural workers. There are many minorities there in certain [parts] of the [eastern] counties. There are many people that haven’t had the training, haven’t had the job opportunities, that you want to provide them. The state’s policy is to try to disperse growth. In order to disperse growth, you have to have good roads. Certainly, the state has worked on a road network that would link the different parts of the state together. I’m not satisfied, in the sense of being content, with the dispersion of industry across the state. I would like to see it much more dispersed in terms of the nature of the effort that’s been made, or the policy that’s been adopted -- the vision. I think the vision and the policy is there. It’s difficult to do in a free market society. Business goes where the labor is available, the training is available, the transportation is available, and the markets are available. We’ve found that when you try to artificially channel economic development -- unless government was willing to subsidize it over a long period of time -- it just didn’t work out. It’s hard to predict what job skills you’re going to need ten to fifteen years from now. You need to have the programs that will train people to learn new skills as they come along. I think the transportation in the eastern part of the state will help. I think the community colleges in the eastern part of the state will help. I think the economic incentive packages that the legislature has adopted are expensive, but I think [that] in the competitive world that we live in, we’ve got to meet the competition. It may be that we desire not to give those [incentives to] new businesses. A lot question [whether that] that is fair to existing businesses. Is that the best use of the taxpayers’ money? But, if you’re faced with the question: “Do you want Nucor to go to northeastern North Carolina, or do you want them to go to some other location?,” you measure the value of their jobs and other things. You have to come down and say, it’s probably a good investment for us.