Eastern North Carolina is dressing up to go courting a bride with one of the largest dowries ever seen. Here comes Boeing, a giant aircraft manufacturing plant that would employ thousands of workers with high-paying jobs, bring millions of dollars in investment and who knows how many supporting companies?
The Global TransPark in Kinston would love nothing more than to announce that kind of wedding. But of course, so would Greensboro and Charlotte and – oh, yeah – a dozen or so other states.
Try to imagine the economic impact a plant of Boeing’s size would make on an area that as suffered as much as Eastern North Carolina. And now try to imagine the size of the incentives package it’s going to take to land that giant aircraft.
Missouri is rumored already to have put together a $1 billion proposal. South Carolina reportedly put up $500 million for a Boeing assembly plant in 2009. North Carolina, still smarting from the loss of a Continental Tire Plant to South Carolina two years ago, would have to come up with a boatload of chips in a game with those kinds of stakes.
But would it be worth it?
The reason Boeing is even in the picture is because the company no longer appreciates the love and companionship of Washington state, where it now resides. Some skeptics say the plant is publicly looking just to press Washington into offering a better deal for the plant to stay.
And there lies just one of the traps of industrial courtship. Putting together a billion dollar deal provides little guarantee that a company will stay forever. And how fair is such a package to smaller companies who have grown up in North Carolina with very few of the plums that a Boeing package would entail?
The workforce and investment that Boeing would bring is huge. But so is the price of entry. There’s no such thing as an easy hand in the high-stakes game of industrial recruiting.