Friday, November 16, 2007

North Carolina Economic Development Association Poll

There's been criticism in several quarters of a recent North Carolina Economic Development Association poll about economic development incentives in North Carolina.

I sort of agree and sort of disagree. While many of the questions clearly are written in such a biased manner that they would almost inevitably lead to the preferred response of the NCEDA some of the questions are reasonable and yield similar results to a poll we did earlier this year.

One of those questions gave background information about the Caldwell County Google incentives package- what the positives would be in terms of job creation and what the monetary cost would be for the state- and then asked respondents whether they were in favor or not. The NCEDA poll showed 43% of respondents in support of the Google deal with 50% opposed. Our poll on the issue in March showed 36% in support of the deal and 46% opposed, a pretty similar outcome.

Opposition to the Google deal does not mean general opposition to economic incentives though. We asked a general question on the issue of providing tax breaks and financial incentives to companies in exchange for job creation, and 58% of respondents generally supported the idea with 30% opposed. NCEDA asked a similar question on economic incentives generally and showed 61% in favor and 33% opposed.

The conclusion I'd draw from those two questions on two different surveys is that North Carolinians have a generally favorable view toward incentives but are inclined to decide what is appropriate on a case by case basis.

What's interesting though is that even though North Carolinians opposed the Google deal, the company actually has a very popular image with poll respondents. 75% of respondents to the NCEDA poll have a favorable attitude toward Google.

Closing thoughts:

-Folks may support incentives but not the Google deal even though they like Google because the company's success is well known and folks might be inclined not to think it deserves any public money. I think that's part of the equation.

-The bigger part of the equation though is that I think people support incentives only in their back yard. I'm sure folks in Caldwell County are thrilled with the Google deal. But folks in Camden County aren't happy to pay for it. Folks in Cumberland County were glad at the investment in Goodyear, but the people in Macon County don't see any benefit to their tax dollars paying for that. I think it would be hard for any individual incentives deal to draw a majority of statewide support, but folks will always be happy to support something that benefits them locally.

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