North Carolina has had its best year ever for attracting new business and jobs, but it hasn't come cheap: the state has promised nearly five times the incentives as last year to attract the companies.
The state has committed to give $55 million in grants to companies that have pledged $1.7 billion in investment through the end of July, state Commerce Secretary Jim Fain said. More than 12,000 jobs are on tap from the business recruits.
Last year, the state handed out almost $12 million worth of incentive grants in exchange for $1.5 billion in investment with almost 10,000 jobs.
This year's numbers don't reflect plans by Fidelity Investments to invest $100 million and hire 2,000 workers in Research Triangle Park in Raleigh. Fidelity, which announced the plans earlier this week, received promises of up to $69 million from state and local governments.
Fain discussed the results Thursday before the state Economic Development Board.
Former state Supreme Court justice Bob Orr, a critic of incentives, said spending millions of dollars to attract companies is "an insane national game where states are being played off each other."
The cost to attract the companies is greater because the firms themselves are bigger, said Tony Copeland, assistant commerce secretary for business recruiting.
"The types of companies that we're getting are blue chip, marquee companies that are investing large amounts of capital," Copeland said. "We're a world-ranked state."
Fain told the board that incentives make the difference in attracting companies that are heavily recruited by other states and have "game-changing impact in economic development activity."
Copeland said the state was ready for an improved economy by spending earlier on infrastructure and education. The state also established the One North Carolina and the Job Development Investment Grant funds.
The Commerce Department also is working with $1 million in state funds to advertise the state to businesses.
"You create your luck," Copeland said. "We've created this luck."