CHARLOTTE -- Hundreds of business leaders put their heads together Wednesday to talk about ways to keep North Carolina competitive. Experts in commercial real estate and economic development say there's more the state can do to attract companies.
When companies decide to relocate, a critical decision they must make is the physical location the business will call home. That's why site selection is becoming a key battleground as states fight for major economic development deals.
“Jobs are precious. Economic development is precious," said Keith Crisco, North Carolina's commerce secretary.
Crisco says its more important than ever for states to identify lucrative sites early.
The hope is the sites will be ready when corporations express interest in moving their headquarters to North Carolina or expanding their existing footprint here.
“It's our job to make sure we have sites and make sure we are in a position to help these companies thrive when the come to North Carolina," Crisco said.
He spoke Wednesday to members of a group called CoreNet – commercial realtors and economic development officials working to bring facilities and jobs to the state.
When Raleigh tech firm Red Hat announced plans to expand, site selection was a factor.
"Economic development deals are very competitive," said Craig Youst, a Red Hat executive and CoreNet's president.
Red Hat stayed in the Tar Heel state, moving in to the old Progress Energy building in downtown Raleigh last week. Red Hat received $15 million in incentives to create nearly 600 jobs in the Triangle. Often, those financial packages include tax breaks on land.
"The last several years with economic challenges, it's really important that North Carolina and South Carolina be really competitive with recruiting and keeping businesses here," Youst said.
Crisco says North Carolina has lost deals to other states and site selection could have played a role. He says a well-trained workforce can help bridge the gap and make North Carolina a winner.
"The key word is to adapt. Adapt to the economy as it is today."
Business leaders say although North Carolina has landed major companies such as Chiquita, the state can do a better job matching the competitive packages offered by other states in the region like Virginia and Georgia.