RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – T.J. Rohr may prove someday to be that lone voice in the wilderness like Winston Churchill warning about a resurgent Germany when it comes to the $100 million deal that is bringing a $600 million Google “server farm” to Lenoir in Caldwell County.
An attorney, Rohr also is a member of the Lenoir City Council. And he voted AGAINST the Google deal. Rohr calls economic development incentives, or EDIs, a “lazy and ultimately deceptive way” to recruit and keep businesses.
“The Skinny” has gone on the record twice in favor of the deal. In the interest of fairness, WRAL Local Tech Wire is reprinting Rohr’s objections, which he submitted by e-mail.
“I enjoyed your article at WRAL.com. I’m on the Lenoir City Council. I voted against the Economic Development Incentive Grants on both philosophical and
political grounds,” Rohr wrote.
“Here are some (slightly edited) points I made in my prepared statement opposing the local grants. At the time I made them, we were under a very
restrictive non-disclosure agreement, so you’ll notice the absence on any reference to Google:
"First of all, EDIs are a lazy and ultimately deceptive way to recruit or keep businesses. What we and all governments, including State and Federal,
ought to be doing is to make our economy a broad-based business-friendly environment. That means less bureaucracy, lower taxes, fewer regulations.
With EDIs, we can make a splashy show at the front end. What EDIs fail to reveal, though, is the number of businesses that close, or relocate, either
to other states or overseas, because of the restrictions and challenges governments can impose. One big recruitment does not make up for the dozens
of less-publicized closings and relocations. Or in the case of Lenoir, the numerous well-publicized furniture closings.
"While the presentation to us talked about a $600 million investment goal, and a 200-person job goal, those are merely goals, not requirements. And
there is not even a stated goal of minimum salaries for those 200 jobs. The contract specifically provides that failure to reach these goals will NOT
prevent the company from gaining these incentives. The company gets these grants almost no matter what it does, or if it does nothing at all. In
return for this unenforceable goal, we propose to refund 100% of personal property taxes and 80% of real property taxes for the next 30 years. It’s
not much different than if I personally set a goal to invest $3 billion and create 800 jobs at my home. In return, I simply want a 100% rebate of real
"An area of legal concern is the nature of the economic development incentives we are being urged to approve. The only thing the company has to
do to get them is to pay its taxes. As I mentioned, they don’t have to create jobs and they don’t have to invest any money. This certainly smacks
of a tax rebate program, which is illegal under North Carolina law. Any taxpayer could sue the City, and each Council member who votes in favor of
Despite his opposition, the City Council, county and state officials approved the EDI package for Google. Construction is already underway.
In the years to come, it will be quite interesting to see how the Google deal does indeed work out.