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The taxpayer cost of Cooper’s development deals

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper is touting the new jobs and capital investments by large companies in North Carolina over the last year, achievements incentivized by large taxpayer subsidies.

In total, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, in collaboration with its Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, announced deals this year to bring in 14,114 new jobs through 134 projects that are expected to attract $12.9 billion in capital investment to the state.

“North Carolina has seen historic economic growth and development in the last few years including our rural areas thanks to our great workforce and major investments from companies across the globe,” Cooper said in a statement. “North Carolina continues to be the best place to locate and grow a business and we’ll keep working to bring good-paying jobs to every corner of our state.”

The work in 2023 brings the three-year totals to 67,000 jobs and $42.3 billion in investment, driven in large part by companies aligned with the governor’s focus on reducing carbon emissions.

The Cooper administration on Monday highlighted some of the biggest investments in 2023 but omitted what those investments actually cost taxpayers.

Toyota’s decision to build an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Randolph County is slated to create a total of 5,100 new jobs and $13.9 billion in capital investment. Incentives negotiated with the state will provide up to $315 million over 39 years, as well as up to $185 million in site development funds, for a cost of more than $98,000 per job.

Kempower’s plans to locate a manufacturing facility in Durham County to build electric vehicle charging stations comes with 601 jobs and a $41 million investment, at a cost to taxpayers of just over $3 million across a dozen years, or about $5,000 per job.

Epsilon Advanced Materials agreed to invest nearly $650 million to create 500 jobs at a plant in Brunswick County where it will produce synthetic graphite for EV batteries. That deal involved $3.4 million over a dozen years, along with $1.14 million in site prep, translating to $9,080 per job.

Siemens Mobility’s $220 million investment in Davidson County to manufacture passenger rail cars is slated to create 500 jobs with the help of $5.6 million from taxpayers over a dozen years, or about $11,200 per job.

The taxpayer funded subsidies, and those targeted to the EV industry in particular, raise a number of issues with what John Locke Foundation CEO Donald Bryson describes as a “ready, shoot, aim” economic development strategy.

“No one in the Cooper administration is asking questions about the need to boost North Carolina’s energy infrastructure to accommodate all of these EVs, no one is asking about the moral implications of how the components for the batters are sourced, and the administration simply dismisses concerns about eminent domain related to the VinFast deal,” Bryson said, referring to a 2022 deal with Vietnamese EV manufacturer VinFast to build a factory in Chatham County.

That deal provided a $316.1 million incentive and $450 million in site preparations to create 7,500 jobs, a cost to taxpayers of $102,146 per job.

“These are only promised jobs, not realized jobs,” Bryson said. “These corporate incentive deals through (the Jobs Development Investment Grants) often fall through – and even if taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the incentives, they’re still on the hook for the infrastructure expenses for roads, water or site preparation that have already been doled out.”

The most recent NC Commerce report on the Job Development Investment Grant program from October shows only 42 of the 406 grants the state inked since the program launched in 2003 have met hiring and investment goals.

Ninety-two ended without payment, while 91 were canceled with a portion of the funds dispersed for creating some jobs. Another 181 are active, suggesting companies could still fulfill the agreements.

In total, taxpayers have spent $489.5 million to create 61,228 jobs over the last two decades, “which equates to approximately $7,995 per job created,” according to the report.

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