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Guest Opinion: Apple brings good news – and seeds of hope

By Gary Pearce

Apple brought Democrats and Republicans happily together – and maybe sowed the seeds for more bipartisan cooperation.

When the big Apple news was announced two weeks ago, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Democratic legislative leaders stood beside Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore on the grounds of the Executive Mansion.

Everybody smiled. Everybody celebrated Apple’s plans to invest $1 billion in North Carolina over 10 years, including $552 million to establish a campus in Research Triangle Park with 3,000 jobs paying an average of $187,000 a year.

At his State of the State speech, Cooper said, “In yet another tremendous accomplishment for our state, today we stood together and announced that Apple has chosen North Carolina for its first new campus and engineering hub in the United States in more than 20 years.”

There were, to be sure, dueling narratives.

Senator Berger said it was “a testament to the success” of Republican fiscal policies like big cuts in corporate taxes.

Governor Cooper said Apple values “diversity and inclusion.” He said CEO Tim Cook told him that repeal of House Bill 2, the 2016 “bathroom bill,” was “important in their decision making.”

Berger said that “never came up” in his conversations with Apple.

He and Speaker Moore said it was just coincidence that they had both quashed bills targeting transgender individuals. And they didn’t kill them quietly. They went out of their way to do it publicly.

Berger maintained, “It had nothing to do with Apple.”

Whatever the reason, give Berger and Moore credit. They did the right thing.

Give Cooper credit. He could have hogged the stage. Instead, he shared it.

Give them all credit for working together and crafting an incentives package that brought in Apple. It amounts to $845.8 million over 39 years.

Three years ago, it looked like North Carolina had missed its bite at Apple. But the Cooper administration kept talking to the company. The administration and the legislature worked together to write the incentive package into law.

Staffers for both, usually sworn enemies, traded compliments at the end.

With Apple, we saw a picture you don’t see in other Southern states these days: The governor and legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites – and Machelle Sanders, a former life-sciences executive who is the first black commerce secretary – standing together.

State Sen. Dan Blue called it a celebration of an “ecosystem” that has transformed the Triangle and North Carolina.

That ecosystem goes back to Archie Davis, who pushed the crazy idea of building a Research Triangle Park in the wooded wilderness bounded by Duke University, N.C. State and UNC.

Back to Governor Terry Sanford, who persuaded the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to put the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in RTP in the 1960s.

Back to Governor Jim Hunt, who created a state Biotechnology Center and a Microelectronics Center in the late 1970s and early 1980s so North Carolina could compete for the industries of the future.

North Carolina used to call itself “the vale of humility between two mountains of conceit,” Virginia and South Carolina. Then, in the latter part of the 20th Century, we surged ahead of the south and nation.

Since 2010, we’ve been locked in partisan, ideological warfare. Progressives feared the legislature was making us another South Carolina or Mississippi.

Maybe the Apple announcement – and the work behind it – will usher in new spirit of bipartisanship and progress.

Surely, that spirit will be tested soon. There’s redistricting, voter ID and the budget.

But it’s spring. And hope springs eternal.

Gary Pearce was a reporter and editor at The News & Observer, a political consultant and an adviser to Governor Jim Hunt (1976-1984 and 1992-2000). He blogs about politics and public policy at www.NewDayforNC.com.   

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