by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
Last week, the NC Department of Commerce announced various grants to rural communities. Their press release opened with this:
The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) approved 16 grant requests totaling $3,948,755, N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland announced today. The requests include commitments to create a total of 683 jobs, 461 of which were previously announced. The public investment in these projects will attract more than $142.8 million in private investment.
Some thoughts. First, if 461 of those jobs had already been announced, then they couldn’t have been dependent on these grants. So let’s exclude them. It’s 222 jobs, not 683. Of course, it’s not surprising that the Department wants to inflate the number of jobs. At 222, that’s $17,500 per job in grants. Seems kinda steep. Is that good value for NC taxpayers?
And at the same time, once you add in that $142.8 million in private investment, those grants amount to less than 3% of the total. You’re telling me that the $3.9 million had to come from taxpayers? Private investment couldn’t have covered that?
Companies will take the grants if they’re offered, and I don’t blame them for that. And relative to the total NC budget, these grants are a tiny drop in the ocean. But this sort of nickel and diming is what, over time, drives budgets and taxes up. It lets politicians take credit for doing something to support rural communities, but it actually just takes money from taxpayers and redirects it to a chosen few.
The state should trim these grants and get out of the way so North Carolina citizens and businesses have more of their own money available to invest. I suspect those private investors would do a better job than the state anyway.