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Cooper: Apple ‘open recruiting situation’ for North Carolina

December 19, 2018
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In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018 North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper responds to a question during an interview at the Governor's mansion in Raleigh, N.C. Cooper hasn’t given up yet on Apple creating more jobs soon in North Carolina. Cooper declined to comment Wednesday on why the state didn’t land thousands of new jobs that Apple announced last week would go to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper hasn’t given up yet on Apple creating more jobs soon in North Carolina.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cooper declined to comment Wednesday on why the state didn’t land thousands of new jobs that Apple announced last week would go to Austin, Texas. The Democratic governor says he’s staying silent for now because he called Apple an “open recruiting situation” that could potentially yield employment.

People familiar with recruitment efforts said earlier this year that Apple was strongly considering North Carolina for its new corporate campus. Cooper and the Republican-controlled General Assembly also approved legislation lowering the threshold required for “transformative” companies to qualify for big cash incentives.

But Apple’s revealed plans left out North Carolina not only for the massive new operations but also job expansions in several other cities — a surprise that left Cooper, lawmakers and recruiters with little public explanation for the setback.

Cooper said the state is still in a good position economically, pointing out decisions this past month by Honeywell International and Advance Auto Parts to move their respective headquarters to North Carolina. Apple already has a data center in Catawba County.

“We feel very good about where we are,” Cooper said at the Executive Mansion, but “we’re going to wait some days before talk about (Apple) publicly because we want to see what is still in the pipeline.”

In the year-end interview, Cooper highlighted job recruitment and incremental victories challenging the General Assembly on education among his 2018 success. The GOP’s veto-proof majorities largely ignored Cooper’s policy agenda and passed its own.

Cooper on Wednesday counted 19,000 new jobs that he said his administration was involved in bringing to the state, bringing the total to nearly 40,000 since he took office in 2017. Republicans attribute the overall job growth to laws passed since 2013 that have reduced individual and corporate income tax rates and regulations. Cooper tried unsuccessfully to halt further rate declines by the legislature. Now the corporate rate will fall to 2.5 percent and individual rate to 5.25 percent next month.

“I also think we pushed them to do more in public education that they would have done otherwise,” Cooper said, pointing to legislation that increased pre-kindergarten funding and public school teacher pay.

Republican lawmakers, who point out they’ve raised teacher pay in one way or another for five consecutive years, will have less control in 2019 after Democrats won enough legislative seats last month to end the GOP’s supermajorities. Cooper will have more leverage with the state budget and with his efforts to expand Medicaid.

Entering the second half of his term, Cooper downplayed talk of a 2020 re-election bid, saying he’s not making any formal announcements now. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is already preparing to run for governor.

Cooper said: “I’m going to work very hard for the next two years as governor, and we’ll talk about that when the time comes.”

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