Does the Carrier deal give hope to communities hit hard by job l - | WBTV Charlotte

Does the Carrier deal give hope to communities hit hard by job loss?

(Source: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College) (Source: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College)

The news that broke this week that Carrier would not move a manufacturing plant out of the United States has been the subject of many conversations.  

President-Elect Donald Trump says he worked out an agreement with the air conditioning manufacturer that would keep 1,000 jobs from going to Mexico.

Could such deals have saved companies that have closed in our area in recent years?

Rowan and Cabarrus Counties were particularly hard hit recently with major job losses in manufacturing.  Textile companies like Pillowtex and Cone Mills closed down, idling thousands, and truck maker Freightliner has also gone through cycles of mass lay-offs.

“The reality is that incentives can shape a business model, they can shape a business decision, but they cannot alter the landscape of economic drivers," said Robert Van Geons of RowanWorks.

“In the case of textiles we’ve seen of new investments and increases in employment after years of decline but the industry has completely transformed.  Today we do with technology in the same square footage we have triple the investment and a third the employees.”

Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce says he thinks the Carrier deal does provide hope in other economically stressed communities.

“I’m glad to see that our government is taking an attitude that we need to retain jobs," Pierce said. "You know it’s great to create jobs, but if you’re letting skilled labor jobs at $20, $25 an hour go away and you’re bringing, replacing them with minimum wage jobs, we’re not really doing what’s best for our citizens.  So I would rather see us take the avenue of let’s invest back into our community through tax incentives or job placement or even training these people for these different high paying jobs rather than see them go away and we put a McDonalds in the same place the factory was.”

Pierce also notes that there is no "one size fits all" plan that will save manufacturing jobs.

“Sometimes it’s a one-sided thing and it’s not good for all parties and it doesn’t work, but if you can sit down and at least have the opportunity if these companies see a problem and identify it and bring it to the local or state level elected officials and let them at least have the opportunity to work through some scenarios that will benefit everybody," Pierce added.

In some cases local governments use creative avenues to create jobs where there have been mass lay-offs.

In Kannapolis, the city government recently purchased 50 acres of downtown properties near the site of the former Pillowtex/Cannon Mills plant.  The city is marketing the property and signed its first lease with a new tenant last month.

Local government officials say they will take a closer look when details of the Carrier plan are revealed to see if a local application may be possible where there is the threat of the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“I think the discussion in general around production jobs, the importance of having manufacturing here in the US economy, I think that that’s a very positive thing," Van Geons added.  "I think we’ve seen it rise in people’s recognition that it’s critical that we have a production component to our economy and if you look at the global economies that are prospering, folks like Germany, you look around parts of the EU, Singapore, Taiwan, they are involved in high value added manufacturing as a significant component of their industrial and economic base."  

“It’s encouraging to see a city, state, and federal government come together to support manufacturing, however, you want to have programs that can benefit industries across the board within that sector, you want to make sure it’s something that is a good value added return on investment for the community.  That’s something we focus on here when we evaluate a project.  You need to look at them on a case by case basis and the state of North Carolina does the same. You have to ask is that commitment of public resources going to bring a positive and beneficial return to not just the company, but more importantly the community.”

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