The following was received in response to last month’s Publisher’s Post:
I want to thank Greater Charlotte Biz publisher John Galles for his thoughtful column on the need to aggressively encourage economic growth in the Carolinas and mentioning Duke Power's 100th anniversary and the Carolinas Competitiveness Forum held on April 29 and 30, 2004. Duke Power has a long history of encouraging economic growth, particularly in the energy intensive manufacturing sector. We are proud of this history, but clearly we all must do more if we are to respond to tough global competition and reverse manufacturing's dramatic decline in our region.
The power of manufacturing to drive economic growth is staggering:
• Manufacturing salaries average $54,000 a year, about $20,000 more than the average service sector jobs.
• Each manufacturing job supports 2.5 to 3 jobs in the services sector.
• Every dollar in demand for manufacturing goods generates an additional 67 cents in demand for other manufactured goods and 76 cents in demand for products and services from non-manufacturing sectors.
• Manufacturing is responsible for approximately two thirds of all private research and development funding in the United States – approximately $127 billion in 2002.
• Manufacturing accounts for 62 percent of all United States exports.
We also must find new and creative ways to help existing businesses better manage their costs as they face regional and global competition. We have an excellent transportation system in North and South Carolina, but it must be constantly evaluated, maintained and expanded. Our community colleges have done a tremendous job in driving economic growth, but they need new investments to train and retrain workers for an increasingly complex economy that is losing textile, furniture and tobacco jobs. In addition, we need to better fund and leverage the research and development capabilities of our excellent universities.
We need to give economic developers better ability to provide targeted and performance-based incentives to ensure we can compete nationally and internationally. We also must pass the Self-Financing Bond referendum that will be on North Carolina’s ballot this November to give economic developers a tool that is used by 48 other states to help pay for needed public infrastructure improvements.
Mr. Galles rightfully points out the importance of the vision of entrepreneurs to our economic growth. Buck Duke, Duke Power's founder 100 years ago, was one of these visionaries. The result was that low cost electricity helped transform our largely agrarian economy into a manufacturing powerhouse.
Today at Duke Power we are working with large commercial and industrial customers to help them become more competitive. In recent months, we have installed large electric boilers that give customers the option of using electricity to produce steam instead of burning increasingly expensive natural gas and oil. The payback for the cost of purchasing and installing these boilers is often only a year or two – and it gives customers a major new option to reduce their operating expenses. We also offer large customers special hourly pricing products that enable them to manage their electricity costs using day-ahead electricity price projections.
I am convinced that if leaders in business, government, academia and the nonprofit sectors come together with renewed creativity and focus, we can restart the manufacturing sector to drive economic growth in the Carolinas.