Gov. McCrory stresses need for skills, incentives to lure auto-manufacturing plant to NC

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Gov. McCrory has long-touted the importance of bringing the automotive industry here. (WTVD)

Gov. Pat McCrory publicized a program on Friday coming to Wilson he said will help entice automakers to bring large manufacturing plants to North Carolina.

The governor visited Beddingfield High School, a potential future site for the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology. It will be a 5-year early college program where students would become skilled in advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies.

The visit comes one day after Rocky Mount-based Golden LEAF Foundation committed $50 million to help lure major auto-manufacturers to the state.

North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that does not have a large auto-manufacturing plant.

McCrory has long-touted the importance of bringing the automotive industry here; assembly plants generate thousands of jobs and lay a foundation for further economic growth. He said he's talking daily with house and senate leadership about strategy.

He told Eyewitness News that during a trip to Europe two weeks ago, he was surrounded by governors from neighboring states, all vying to win automakers' business. He said one question he kept facing from leaders in the industry was, 'Do you have the talent?'"

McCrory told leaders of Wilson County Schools and supporters of the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology that they are ahead of the game.

"What this high school's doing is a great competitive tool that I will use as a marketing tool to sell a potential automobile factory coming into this region," said McCrory. "And it starts at the middle school and high school level to make it happen. Because these companies are looking at a 50 to a 100-year investment and they want to make sure they can have the qualified labor force."

But first, McCrory said he needs the legislature to move within weeks to build on the economic package he's presenting to manufacturers.

"When I go to Europe or when we go to Japan, there are other governors right before me and right after me, showing a concise strategy and package that they can offer and right now North Carolina, I do not have that to offer," he said.

The governor would not elaborate on just how large an incentive package he would need to beat out the competition.

"I'm not ready to discuss the amount of money but we have clear proposals that the leadership understands that- and will be presenting to the house and senate within weeks," he said. "Because I'm talking to companies as we speak."

Wilson County Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said they hope to have the academy fully-funded and ready to open by fall 2016.

When asked whether he would promote eastern NC over other parts of the state to manufacturers, the governor said he's selling at least four viable areas on an equal basis.

"I'll let the consumer pick the one that they think best fits their needs and I sell them across the board, whether it be in Greensboro, whether it be in Rocky Mount or whether it be in other counties throughout North Carolina," said McCrory. "I'm presenting the sites that are most viable for companies to select from and then the company selects those sites. But what they're doing at this high school makes this site even more competitive."

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