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Documents Offer More Answers In Toyota-Mazda Loss

A screenshot of the cover of the proposal from NC Department of Commerce to entice Toyota and Mazda to build an auto manufacturing facility in North Carolina.
NC Department of Commerce

The N.C. Department of Commerce released the file on its effort to recruit a coveted Toyota-Mazda auto manufacturing plant.

The file contains nearly 400 pages of text messages, emails, and other documents that together paint the picture of how economic development leaders sought to woo the car makers to North Carolina.

However, because of a state law that protects these kinds of files, there are more documents that will remain closed to the public, potentially forever.

The manufacturing facility was set to come with a $1.6 billion investment and 4,000 jobs. The companies chose Alabama over North Carolina in January.

The newly released file didn't offer any major bombshells, but did give insight into the efforts of Gov. Roy Cooper, Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland, Economic Development Partnership of NC Chief Executive Chris Chung, and others, as they looked to convince the leaders of the auto manufacturers to bring those jobs to North Carolina.

Related: Why Toyota-Mazda Passed On NC, And Why That May Be A Good Thing

A major part of North Carolina's pitch was that it offered an incentive package worth $1.6 billion, roughly the exact amount of the entire project, the largest incentive offer ever in North Carolina. The majority of that figure - $1.16 billion – was to come in straight tax or cash incentives. Another $375 million was to help with infrastructure development and site preparation. Just about $47 million would have helped in workforce training and $6 million toward supply chain incentives.

A dearth of a strong automotive supply chain was a big mark against North Carolina. This state does not have a strong cluster of parts suppliers that feed the necessary equipment to these major auto manufacturers. Alabama's chain of suppliers is far more robust.

In addition to the state incentives, state and local officials in the Triad had acquired land and prepared what is now called the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite as a potential location for the Toyota-Mazda facility.

Despite turning over nearly 400 pages of documents, North Carolina citizens might never fully understand the state's efforts, or the lessons that commerce leaders took away from the loss. That's because the project was classified as "closed-lost," which limits what becomes a public record, even after the project has closed – which is the case here.

While North Carolina has some automotive jobs, it lags other states in the Southeast, particularly in automotive manufacturing and suppliers. The interactive chart below shows total jobs by state in automotive manufacturing and supply. Hover the mouse over each bar to see the individual manufacturer. Data supplied by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Note: This chart does not include the 4,000 Toyota-Mazda jobs.

Jason deBruyn is the WUNC health reporter, a beat he took in 2020. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016.
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