City leaders may not like hearing this – at first – but Charlotte’s next major economic development coup shouldn’t actually be in Charlotte, but in Chester. Or Rock Hill, Or Indian Land – Chester, Van Wyck. There’s a good reason why – and it’s in the Queen City’s favor.
South Carolina’s incentives. Incentives are a state’s welcome mat. They tell a company they are welcome and that we are open for business and sets the tenor for the reception companies expect to get. That’s something South Carolina does extremely well. Their incentives are good and superior to North Carolina’s, but what they do extremely well is how comprehensively they lay out the welcome mat and make it easy for companies to do business with them. North Carolina, on the other hand, has had some economic development success despite itself up to this point.
But back to Chester. Chester could be good economic shot in the arm to all of us because it is close to Charlotte (people can drive there within 30 minutes) and it has easy access to the port in Charleston. Truly, for a company looking at building a large manufacturing facility, say another car plant, Chester offers the chance to be close to a major airport, Charlotte-area living for its executives, and cultural and entertainment amenities. In a lot of ways, it is a far better location for BMW than its current home in Greenville.
So, let Charlotte leverage South Carolina’s incentives and encourage more companies to come to the Palmetto State. Charlotte can be the employment center and cultural hub, with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, NFL, NBA, first-class museums and concerts, and the S.C. region can serve as the manufacturing base.
It’s not a new idea – the Charlotte Regional Partnership, on whose board I served for six years, is funded mostly by North Carolina but supports an 11-county region, three of which are in South Carolina. Charlotte’s booming population growth and land consumption really leaves little choice: If we want to land our own BMW or Volvo plant, it will have to be somewhere south, such as Chester.
People have been saying Charlotte should secede to South Carolina because of HB2. I say we should instead widen the road between the two states as big as possible.