By Allan Freyer
Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center
- The fundamental challenge facing North Carolina’s economy in the first decades of the 21st century is how to replace rapidly vanishing jobs in declining manufacturing industries with jobs in growing industries that pay enough to allow workers and their families to make ends meet and achieve middle class prosperity.
- The primary goal of the state’s economic development efforts should be growth in median household income. To accomplish this goal, the state should refocus its economic development goals to not just to promote “growth” for its own sake, but to ensure that as many people and regions as possible benefit from growth.
- North Carolina should adopt an integrated, “all-of-the-above” approach to economic development, one that leverages the state’s existing assets and strategies—such as its top-notch research universities and regional clusters of thriving industries like pharmaceutical manufacturing—to support all types of business growth, including the expansion of existing businesses and the creation of new homegrown businesses, alongside strategies for attracting outside businesses to the state.
- This involves fostering businesses in industry clusters that are not only expanding, but that also pay high wages and offer good benefits, and to target those efforts to the regions of the state that lagging behind.
- Policymakers need to use a broader range of indicators beyond economic growth— including median household income and poverty rates—that reflect changes in the standard of living and the ability of families to prosper in the 21st century.