You’ve probably heard a lot from many members of the General Assembly about “job killers.” That’s a popular phrase to throw at any one who wants to spare the environment from needless destruction or peg taxes to a level that will ensure the services and schools the public expects.
So it seems ironic that some of those same members are behind move that truly could stifle job growth. It’s a move we’ve decried before, one we hoped had died in the last legislative session, but one that continues to be a goal for legislators from outside the state’s major cities, including Durham and its Triangle neighbors - Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary and others.
There are those on Jones Street that think that the way to help rural economies is to penalize the urban areas. That’s a self-defeating idea.
Julie White, executive director of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, warned that rural legislators are likely to continue to take aim at cities, as they did with an ultimately failed effort to limit Wake County’s ability to levy local-option sales taxes for both education and transit.
Their motives revolved “around the idea of impairing investment in our urban centers while empowering investment in our rural areas, as though the success of the rural investment would be impacted more positively through the hampering of the urban economy,” White wrote.
But that move overlooks a reality of 21st-century life: Our largest cities are among the strongest drivers of economic growth. That is certainly apparent in the Triangle. Both Durham and Raleigh are expected to be among the top five metro areas in economic growth over the next 15 years.
Many jobs created here will benefit residents of less urban areas. And many of the companies providing those jobs will go elsewhere if our urban areas become less welcoming. The companies want to be in or near a metro area, and our willing it to be different won’t make it so, as Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker pointed out last week.
Roughly one in three workers in the Triangle commutes to a job outside their county of residence, reflecting the willingness to drive a distance for a job. Many are part of the familiar Durham-RTP-Raleigh traffic scrum, but many come from farther afield.
Companies want to come to cities, for the amenities, culture and vitality. People are willing to drive there. Let’s not kill those jobs.