That both presumptive presidential nominees from the major parties held rallies in North Carolina on the same day should be ample evidence that the Tar Heel State has taken its place aside Florida and Ohio as the ultimate swing state. Both sides relish the thought of our 15 electoral votes, and will work hard winning them.
As always, pocketbook issues like jobs and taxes will be a key consideration on the minds of voters. And on that score, Gov. Pat McCrory has a compelling case to take to the fall campaign.
Consider that since January 2013, North Carolina’s economy has generated more than 276,000 net new private-sector jobs. Unemployment rates are down dramatically since then — falling 3.7 percentage points as of May, the 9th steepest decline in the country during that period. We’re the No. 1 state in the southeastern U.S. for manufacturing employment. We lead the entire nation in bio-manufacturing jobs, whose average annual salaries are nearly $90,000.
When measured against the nation and the world, North Carolina’s economy compares well. Our $508 billion gross domestic product earns us the position of America’s 9th largest economy and the 23rd largest on earth. Our GDP growth rate since 2013 currently make us the nation’s 4th fastest-growing economy.
Under Gov. McCrory’s leadership and fiscal management, North Carolina preserved its triple-A credit rating from the three major services (one of only nine states that can make that claim), all while accruing impressive revenue surpluses in each of the last two years. And, icing on the cake, the state’s enviable fiscal health came amid historic reforms to both personal and corporate taxes. Those changes also resulted in the dramatic improvement in North Carolina’s business climate ranking from The Tax Foundation — from 44th in 2013 to 15th today.
And this success is likely to endure. Major investments in economic infrastructure include upgrades to transportation systems and long-overdue improvements to our state park system, a resource that is among the quality-of-life assets that make North Carolina a top state for in-migration. Also critical are the new classroom and lab buildings soon to be under construction at our community colleges and universities as part of the Connect NC bond package. With the emphasis in STEM education, these facilities will create a 21st century talent force that most states will find impossible to match.
North Carolina’s economy is among the country’s best, a point obviously not lost on Gov. McCrory’s critics, including his Democratic opponent, who are quick to change the subject. Abetted by their media and entertainment industry allies, they’ve seized upon HB2 in what is sure to be remembered as one of the cleverest head-fakes in recent political history.
It’s unlikely that cancelled concerts and social media sanctimony will put much of a damper on our half-trillion dollar economy. In fact, since the legislation passed, approximately 3,000 jobs have been announced. But as the Democrats stoke outrage in their strategy of faking right in order to move left, they are no doubt recalling James Carville’s 1992 campaign dictum: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Arguably, North Carolina has the No. 1 performing economy in the United States.
John E. Skvarla III is the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce.