State leaders are keeping mum about international reports that Volvo is hunting for a new manufacturing site in a handful of southern states, including North Carolina. But Gov. Pat McCrory disclosed development of a new jobs recruitment plan on Thursday at the opening of the headquarters for the private-public Economic Development Partnership.
According to the Financial Times, the luxury car brand is looking to join a number of other companies with factories in the Southeast, including BMW in South Carolina and Mercedes in Alabama. Just this month, Mercedes announced it would move its headquarters from New Jersey to Georgia, passing up locations in North Carolina.
Citing two anonymous sources, the report said Volvo had been “in talks with several US state legislatures” in North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky about potential incentives for the move, part of an effort to boost sales in the U.S.
Calls to the company Thursday were not returned, and a spokeswoman with state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said she hasn’t heard anything about the talks. State House Speaker Tim Moore said he had has not heard from the company, and it would be unusual for lawmakers to be involved at this stage in the process.
At a press conference Thursday to debut the headquarters of the state’s new public-private Economic Development Partnership, Commerce Department spokeswoman Kim Genardo had no comment on the Volvo project.
“North Carolina is always looking to recruit new companies,” Genardo said.
Speaking to reporters at the event, Gov. Pat McCrory declined to comment about any potential talks with Volvo or on the details of his economic development trip last week to the U.K. McCrory said he was there with new Commerce Secretary John Skvarla “working to recruit jobs.”
“We were overseas in Europe in a continued effort to make contacts with companies that would be interested in North Carolina,” he said.
He added, however, that the state would be a suitable place for an auto manufacturer.
“We’ve always been interested in auto,” McCrory said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Before cutting the ribbon on the partnership’s new office space in Cary, McCrory hinted at a new “NC Competes” plan he would present to the state legislature in the coming weeks that would encourage large-scale manufacturing, attract new investment and fund long-term infrastructure projects.
“If I’m going to compete successfully – if we’re going to compete successfully – we need to have a firm strategy in place that we can communicate,” McCrory said.
He declined to give further details of the plan.
Lawmakers may take up the issue of incentives when they return to Raleigh for the 2015 long session at the end of the month. But despite repeated pleas from McCrory to extend one of the state’s largest such programs set to expire this year, state leaders don’t appear to be in any hurry.
State Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, told WRAL News earlier this month that priorities such as Medicaid and education will likely take precedence.
But McCrory said Thursday he’s had “extremely productive conversations” with legislative leaders about the need for more economic programs – and how soon they need to go into effect.
“I think the leadership shares that sense urgency, but it’s also important for me to have a clear plan to place in front of the legislature,” he said.