Recently, The News & Observer editorial board penned a piece called “To help rural North Carolina, the state must invest more,” suggesting that tax reform and supporting rural parts of our state were mutually exclusive. We couldn’t agree more that there’s an urgent need to bridge the urban-rural divide in our state and ensure that economic opportunity isn’t confined to the cities. However, as the editorial board noted at the end of their piece, bridging that divide is going to take a complex network of connections—not just one solution. Nothing should be off the table.
To that end, the NC Chamber Foundation proposed a series of public and private priorities in our April 2016 study: “Spreading Economic Opportunity Across North Carolina.” These ideas covered everything from repealing harmful taxes like the Mill Machinery and Equipment Tax and establishing grants for rural economic development to encouraging better public-private partnerships and supporting burgeoning apprenticeship programs.
Today, I’m pleased to share that with the hard work of our business community, local and regional partners, and elected officials, we’ve made significant headway in accomplishing a number of these goals. For example, we aimed to certify 30 nonurban counties as NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities by 2021—we’re up to 32 today. We successfully fought to repeal the Mill Machinery Tax and established a Rural Opportunity Grant Fund. Additionally, the NC Chamber Foundation launched our Apprenticeship Council to develop a five-year strategic plan to expand apprenticeships throughout the state, and we’re hard at work on a new, unique project to better connect business leaders with students and potential employees. Stay tuned for more!
We agree with The News & Observer that it’s going to take a complex approach with lots of stakeholders to continue elevating our rural communities. But we also believe that tax reform is an important part of that solution. Our tax climate catapulted from one of the worst in the nation to one of the most competitive after the reforms, and our state’s economy has been growing steadily for years. Just like urban companies, local and rural businesses deserve to reap the rewards of a reduced tax burden—especially when they can reinvest those dollars in their operations. Growing their businesses and hiring more workers would then expand their property tax base, which supports local schools and communities. We can’t ignore tax reform as an important stimulus for growth, especially when that growth benefits players in cities and rural areas alike.
That’s just one step towards bridging the rural-urban divide, and we know we’re far from done. But with a multifaceted approach like the one outlined in our Economic Opportunity study, we can keep getting closer to that goal.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Governmental Affairs
North Carolina Chamber > A force for business