It might be unfashionable for an altweekly journalist to say, but the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is essential to the Triad’s economic growth. It can’t be repeated enough that the project is potentially transformative for our region, that the millions of dollars invested are worth the potential return and that all the players — elected officials, economic developers, philanthropists, Duke Energy and the North Carolina Railroad — deserve kudos for moving this project forward.
No, we don’t want to make the mistake of putting all of our eggs in one basket. And yes, we will inevitably need to sacrifice a little of our dignity to shell out huge tax incentives at the state and local levels to land a big employer. We’re talking about 4,000 jobs potentially.
The objective seems a little closer with Richard M. Barron’s report in Wednesday’s News & Record that North Carolina is on a short list of three states Toyota-Mazda is considering for a joint electric-car factory. Barron quotes site-selection consultant John Boyd as saying that the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is the most qualified among a handful across the state. And Boyd believes North Carolina has an advantage because Toyota has no factories in the state, giving the company an opportunity to garner the support of another congressional delegation in its quest for regulatory approval to undertake a partnership with Mazda.
The importance of this project comes down to jobs. Simply put, there’s no better way to raise Triad residents’ standard of living than secure employment that pays a decent wage. Place-making is important, but for people without disposable income, a relentless focus on farmers markets, bike paths, new restaurants and brewpubs, Trader Joe’s and other amenities can begin to feel like a cruel tease. Folks who are willing to work hard should have the opportunity to earn a decent living, and they should be able to build equity however they want, whether it’s a condo in Greensboro’s Southside, a ranch house in High Point, or a trailer at the end of a gravel road in Randolph County.
If Toyota and Madza or some other large employer chooses the megasite, Greensboro will be the city that benefits most, but the plant will also spur a population and development boom on the north side of Randolph County. And via Interstate 74, the new jobs will also be a 30- to 45-minute commute away for residents of High Point and the southeastern quadrant of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Not to say that this project will solve the staggering challenges faced by our democracy, but rewarding employment and the sense that it’s possible to get ahead has a way of redirecting racial and religious bigotry. A good job is an unbeatable social program.
Keep it up.