VinFast news is ‘monumental’ for NC, tax incentives still needed, says Research Triangle Regional Partnership exec

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Ryan Combs, the head of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, is unequivocal in his beliefs about the landing of an auto manufacturing plant – long sought by economic development leaders – for North Carolina.

In an exclusive Q&A with WRAL TechWire, Combs declared Tuesday’s news about VinFast “monumental” and sees more big deals coming to the region, which makes up 12 counties around Research Triangle Park.

There’s plenty of land for development, he adds, and the area is not losing its appeal to companies such as quality of life.

Combs also declared that North Carolina must continue to offer tax incentives in order to land future projects.

Our Q&A:

  • Given the flow of projects coming to the region, isn it time to revisit the tax incentives being offered or is that debate already over and NC must continue to offer deals for jobs?

There is no question the state must continue to offer incentives. I mentioned the importance of workforce, tax climate, etc.. and while those factors play a major role in a company’s decision, when multiple communities that have similar characteristics are competing on a project, incentives are what put you over the finish line.

  • What’s the impact of the VinFast decision for the Triangle, and for the state?

[Tuesday] was a monumental day for all of North Carolina and the sheer magnitude of Vinfast’s investment won’t be fully realized for years. The announcement does however provide immediate exposure and puts the Triangle center-stage in terms of global recognition. Last year we saw a major uptick in interest by tech companies following the announcements by Apple and Google and with yesterday’s announcement I have no doubt that we will see the same happen with the auto-manufacturing industry.  The Vinfast announcement coupled with Toyota’s recent announcement also expedites the need for primary and secondary suppliers to locate facilities in North Carolina. Look at what has happened in places like South Carolina and Alabama. Alabama started with one OEM and now they have 6 manufacturers employing over 40,000 and producing more than 1 million vehicles a year. Alabama is also now home to 150 suppliers. As my friend in economic development Pearson says, “it only takes one.”

  • What in your view is the next big target for recruiting – a semiconductor plant? Another auto plant?

In addition to the auto-industry suppliers that I just mentioned, our region is still very bullish around multiple sectors including biotech, agtech, and advanced manufacturing. We are fortunate that all of our 12 counties have available real-estate to be competitive in these sectors. Landing a major chip fabrication facility remains a priority for us and while we have been close, I think we still have additional opportunities. I am also excited about the work being done at the state level to position NC as the ideal location for suppliers of the offshore wind industry. That sector is going to take off in the next couple of years and our region could benefit greatly, especially our counties close to I-95.

  • Is the Triangle region running out of room for big developments? (Your site list seems to indicate otherwise … what are some of the big ones?)

Our region still has lots of room to grow. Chatham County and Person County both have available mega-sites ideal for micro-chip manufacturing. In addition, all the 12 counties within the RTRP have unique properties developed or in the works that can accommodate large scale projects.

  • The region is really on a roll … why is the Triangle continuing to be such a hot spot?

There are so many different factors that come into play. Low taxes and pro-business policies at the local and state level are certainly contributing greatly, as is our incredible quality of life here in the region. But hands down, the number 1 reason for this region’s success is our ability to supply a qualified and talented workforce to employers. The RTRP region is home to 12 colleges and universities, 176,000 annual students and 46,000 annual graduates. Those students are now choosing to stay here including 64% of our graduates with STEM degrees. In addition, I firmly believe NC has the best community college system in the nation and we are lucky to have 7 different community colleges here in the triangle.

  • Are you concerned at all that development and jobs will negatively impact toe region’s ability to sustain its current quality of life?

The great thing about our region is we are not heavily condensed in one small area like Boston or NYC. People can live in urban or rural environments and still get around with relative ease. This is one of the big factors associated with quality of life. However, with the continued growth, having a master regional transportation plan is going to be crucial for us to keep from becoming a community like Austin where traffic is now taking its toll on the residents. The bottom line is that with our success comes the realization that major regional investments have to be made including supporting mass transit options like commuter rail and bus rapid transit. RDU is another important element that should not be forgotten, and they are in dire need of increased federal funding. The good news is we have entities like the Regional Transportation Alliance and GoTriangle leading from the front on these issues. 

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire