Cover Story: Continental Tire Picks SC

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Continental Tire says it's picking South Carolina instead of North Carolina for its new manufacturing plant.

That means North Carolina is losing out on 1,700 new jobs we certainly could use.

This has erupted into finger-pointing like we've not seen in a long time.  And goes to show how politically charged the issue of bringing jobs to the state is.  Neither side wants to appear they've not done enough.

They were crowing in South Carolina on Thursday.

"Man, this is a world series bottom of the 9th inning Grand Slam winner," says Eugene Baten, chairman of the Sumter County Council.

Continental Tire announced it's building a half-billion dollar tire production plant outside Sumter east of Columbia.

"We have a great quality company in Continental Tire that could have picked any place in the country to go," says SC Gov. Nikki Haley.

The German-based company was considering three sites in three states.  Sumter county, South Carolina.  Brunswick county, west of Wilmington in North Carolina.  And in Louisiana.

South Carolina won the sweepstakes and the 1,700 jobs Continental Tire promises to bring over the next decade.

"I've often said only half in jest.. if this had been on eBay at least you would know what you are bidding against."  Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Orr, a critic of economic incentives says in the race to lure jobs states will sell their souls.

And companies like Continental Tire know it.

Deals are done in secret and only the company knows what each state is offering.

"It is vital that you have one team working together because if you don't you can lose a project," says Keith Tunnell, economic development director in Lancaster County.  "I've often said that economic development team can't win a project but certainly they can lose one if they don't have the right mix."

Which may have been why it unraveled in North Carolina and why there's finger pointing now.

Senate leader Phil Berger and Republicans blamed Democratic Governor Perdue for losing the deal.

Perdue blamed Republicans for not supporting the more than $90 million incentives package sought by Continental Tire.

Republicans nixed it in part because the land being considered in Brunswick county was tied to contributors to Gov. Perdue.

Former employees of Continental Tire are critical of the company for closing all its union plants in the U.S like its southwest Charlotte facility it mothballed five years ago.

The only location currently it currently has in the U.S. is in Mount Vernon, Illinois, which is a non-union shop.

The company also moved its American headquarters out of Charlotte in 2006 to a site in Indian Land in northern Lancaster county.

Some believe that also weighed on Continental's decision to locate in South Carolina instead of North Carolina.

So did politics get in the way or was it all about money?  Only Continental Tire knows the answer to that question.

The German-based tire company also announced it's going to spend $4 million expanding its Lancaster county headquarters, adding 80 jobs.

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