Greensboro News & Record

August 17, 1995

Incentives have strong backing

Justin Catanos, Staff Writer

Copyright © 1995, Greensboro News & Record

The practice of using taxpayer money to lure new companies to a community or help existing companies expand has long been a lightning rod for public criticism.

Just last week, Winston-Salem attorney William Maready successfully argued in Forsyth Superior Court that economic incentives violate the state constitution. Business recruiters must now think twice before offering incentives, at least until the state Supreme Court considers the appeal.

But according to a News & Record poll conducted last month, a clear majority - 62 percent - of 504 Greensboro residents surveyed actually favor the use of incentives.

The support broke down this way: 27 percent of those polled said they strongly agree with the use of incentives to attract new industry, while 35 percent said they somewhat agree.

Meanwhile, one-third of those polled - 32 percent - said they either somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with the use of incentives.

''We need more and better businesses in Greensboro,'' said Bobby Fain, a 52-year-old mechanical engineer who was among those polled. ''If that's what we have to do to get them, then that's what we have to do.''

The poll was conducted for the News & Record by KPC Research of Charlotte.

In Greensboro, incentives typically play out as reimbursements for road and utilities construction, site preparation and job training. The majority support for the use of such incentives was broad-based. It cut across all demographic categories. For example:

60 percent of men and 64 percent of women polled favor incentives.

70 percent of those 18-34 years old and 62 percent of those 35-54 years old favor incentives.

57 percent of white residents polled and 73 percent of black residents polled favor incentives.

Newcomers to the community and long-time residents favor incentives by clear margins.

66 percent of those polled with incomes below $ 40,000 and 70 percent of those polled with incomes above $ 40,000 favor incentives.

''We have jobs in this community, but they're not good-paying jobs,'' said Everee Nichols, a 45-year-old shipping clerk. ''There should be incentives for companies to come and pay good wages.''

The City Council's incentive policy requires companies to demonstrate their financial strength and also to share their environmental record prior to receiving support.

''Maybe we can give them a break for a year or two,'' said Don Bennett, 50, who designs fire sprinkler systems. ''But once they settle in, they should pull their weight like everyone else.''

Those interviewed who oppose the use of incentives most often cited the issue of fairness.

''The higher man always gets the break,'' said Yvonne Adams, a 31-year-old in-home day care operator. ''They own the companies, so why should they get tax breaks? They can afford to pay.

''If they are going to come, they're going to come because it's a good place. That's the way it should be, not because we're giving them a break.''

Used with permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, translated, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the Greensboro News & Record.

Copyright ©1995, Greensboro News & Record.

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