Editorial: Labor Day weekend — Put Rowanís focus on jobs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

What is the Rowan County Board of Commissioners doing to attract more jobs to the county? Where are commissioners focusing their energies at this crucial time?
Itís a question to ponder on a Labor Day weekend when many county residents would gladly work if only they had a job. Unemployment reached 11.8 percent in July, up slightly from the previous month and well above the statewide rate of 10.3 percent.
The rate is frighteningly close to recent highs ó 12 percent in February 2009, at the peak of the official recession; and 12.2 percent in August 2003, after Pillowtex closed and laid off thousands.
While running for office last year, commission candidates described several ways to promote job growth: keep taxes low, work on the planning department and business-friendly development standards, fund the school system to the best of the countyís ability, continue to develop the incentive program.
So far theyíve taken the tax pledge to heart. But even the conservative John Locke Foundation says it takes more than low taxes to spur economic growth, and the foundation is not advocating for incentives. The think tankís 2011 City and County Issue Guide says local government should also focus on the essential government services that businesses and citizens need: ěeffective police and fire departments, efficient trash collection, a road system that is kept in good repair, a safe and instructionally effective school system, and a dependable sewer system and water supply that can accommodate economic growth.î
Thereís no argument with that. Efforts to excel in essential services help the entire community ó in fact and in image.
The best growth comes when an industry already established in the community decides to expand. The company likes the business environment and workforce dynamics here and decides to invest more. Thatís been the case recently with Norandal, Boral and others. We hope that will also be true of Hitachi, though final word on a 148-job expansion there has not been announced.
Still, voters are disillusioned at the national, state and local level. Government appears helpless to spur job growth, and elected leaders sometimes pour tremendous energy into conflicts that do nothing to help ó such as Congressí clash over the debt ceiling.
Labor Day was created as a tribute to organized labor and has morphed into a celebration of summerís end. This Labor Day, letís remind leaders to focus on whatís really important ó the need for more jobs, and creating an environment that will attract them.