North Carolina would have invested heavily in job training, rail, roads and tax breaks to land the Toyota-Mazda joint manufacturing operation near Greensboro, according to newly released emails detailing officials’ intense but losing battle.
Last month the state was runner-up to Alabama despite extraordinary efforts by North Carolina officials, who promised $1.6 billion in financial incentives.
The records were released by the state Department of Commerce on Monday evening in response to public record requests. The records show North Carolina worked hard to anticipate what the Japanese automakers might want, and to meet their extensive requirements for what was dubbed Project New World.
Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., in several emails prepped Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials on how to woo high-ranking Toyota officials during their two visits to North Carolina last fall.
Chung relayed that the Chicago-based commercial real estate company representing Toyota “emphasized how important it was for the Toyota folks to ‘feel the love’ about how important this project is to North Carolina. This needs to come across loud and clear in language, tone, verbal and non-verbal communications.”
Chung said the company had been less than impressed by the response from other governors its officials had met.
Cooper and Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland should mention discussions are ongoing with the legislature to come up with additional financial incentives if needed, Chung wrote in September.
Other messages indicated the governor might need to weigh in with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to convince the company of the need to move a utility power line on the state “megasite” property in Randolph County near Greensboro. Duke ended up agreeing to move the line.
Toyota officials visited the Randolph County location as well as two megasites in Chatham County.
Chung also suggested that Cooper meet the Toyota officials at the airport and ride with them in a Toyota for their meeting in the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, although the emails don’t indicate if his advice was followed. Chung also suggested consideration be given to promising that Toyota vehicles would receive preference if bought for the state’s motor fleet; that was not included in the state’s promises.
In early August, Toyota solicited interest from states for the joint venture that would have brought 4,000 jobs to North Carolina. Almost immediately, The Wall Street Journal reported that North Carolina was one of 11 states under consideration for the project. In October, records show, Toyota informed North Carolina that it had made the cut for the next round, renewing efforts to satisfy the automaker.
Records show the companies required a site that would be ready to go into production within 18 to 36 months, with a rail line or two within 50 miles of railroad terminal, switch or intermodal station. Roads for shipping and employees needed to be less than five miles from an interstate or four-lane highway.
The companies wanted to be sure that the region had a labor force concentration of 300,000 workers within a 60-mile area.
NC Governor Roy Cooper discusses the value of incentives to attract better paying jobs. Cooper's use of corporate incentives to court Amazon, Toyota has drawn fire from conservatives.
North Carolina agreed to put together a 1,000-acre construction-ready site by October of this year. A private foundation created to promote the Randolph megasite also promised to provide an office free of charge.
The emails also show that the real estate firm JLL at every step along the way wanted to know what promises state, local and private representatives had already approved and what requirements were still outstanding.
Copeland, writing to the JLL contact, said the state had increased “nearly every line item from our original proposal,” and emphasized that the governor and legislative leaders were working closely to make the deal happen.
The emails don’t shed light on why North Carolina lost the project. State officials previously said it was due to an inadequate concentration of the supply chain.
The records also show how some of North Carolina’s offer of almost $1.6 billion would have been spent:
▪ $2 million in-kind to NCWorks, a state job development network started under former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, for employee screening.
▪ $16.4 million for job training.
▪ $25 million for a specialized training center.
▪ $3 million for an apprenticeship program to teach new skills.
▪ $100,000 for a “Japanese Saturday school” to instruct the children of Japanese managers in their native language for when they returned home. The Huntsville, Ala., Town Council approved $250,000 for the school.
▪ $48 million in land conveyed at no cost from the North Carolina Railroad Corp., the megasite foundation and Randolph County.
▪ $76 million for infrastructure from a special state fund aimed at the largest of projects.
▪ $37 million in water and sewer improvements from the Golden Leaf Foundation and the city of Greensboro.
▪ $18 million for rail connection paid for by the state Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern.
▪ $79 million in road improvements from DOT.
▪ $53 million in electric infrastructure.
▪ $63 million in natural gas with 7 miles of pipeline extension and 6 ½ miles of pipeline looping.
▪ $565,650,000 in corporate income and franchise tax breaks.
▪ $54 million in sales tax exemption on building materials.
▪ $215 million from the state JDIG grant program, $200 million from the One N.C. program.
▪ $100 million in a Randolph County property tax grant.
Alabama promised more than $1 billion in state and local incentives.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Randolph County’s property tax grant and the corporate income and franchise tax breaks..