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Boy, am I glad Apple went elsewhere, too

Last month I was relieved that New York City and the D.C. area would be the ones saddled with buyers’ remorse for shelling out so much in incentives to bring in Amazon’s HQ2 project.

Now I’m relieved to hear Apple’s announcement it will be investing $1 billion in a new campus in Austin, Texas, rather than in Raleigh or the Research Triangle Park.

It’s not that I don’t want Raleigh and RTP to have nice things. It’s just that the advantage of enjoying a major corporate build like Apple’s would have been obliterated by the jaw-dropping extent of North Carolina’s incentives package for this “transformative” project.

As I explained to WRAL’s TechWire:

A transformative project really would transform the region. The term suggests the costs of growth. The Triangle has low unemployment, so it’s already at what economists consider full employment. Tens of thousands of new jobs would bid many workers from current positions, with rising labor costs. Thousands upon thousands of new families would seek homes. They would need schools and police and fire protection. They would add to already crowded roads and highways.

Still, growth is good overall. The benefits of a major new corporate taxpayer bringing in thousands upon thousands of new taxpayers and consumers would, assuming responsible stewardship at all levels of government, pay the freight in terms of additional stresses placed on government and infrastructure.

Unless the state reverses the flow — especially for a quarter-century. Then the growing pains, the greater weight of paying for infrastructure needs (schools, roads, housing), would fall on current residents and businesses, plus all other nonincentivized new businesses.

Besides, economic research suggests that big corporation relocations are made for long-term business reasons, not predicated on government incentives, which are much less actual incentive than cherry on top.

Apple chose Austin for business reasons. There are lessons that Raleigh can draw from it, perhaps, but the wrong conclusion would be to think there’s no incentives bid too large.

But if you fret the loss of a single major business, just remember that North Carolina was just named by Forbes as the No. 1 state for business. Also remember that 99.6 percent of businesses in North Carolina are small business. These employers benefit from lower taxes and lighter regulations, too.

Given them lower taxes and regulations in general is the all-comers incentive that benefits North Carolinians more so than special tax treatment of a few big guys.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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