Job reforms brighten North Carolina's economic future

North Carolina's economic future is on the rise.

During the past 18 months, job-focused reforms have helped makeNorth Carolina the best state to do business. Tax, unemployment, workforce development and transportation reforms have contributed to North Carolina's improving economy, leading to one of the largest drops in unemployment in the country and the creation of more than 70,000 jobs since January 2013.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory
Source: Governors Office | North Carolina
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

North Carolina experienced the largest drop in unemployment in 2013 and dropped below the national average in 2014 for the first time in eight years. This has occurred, in part, as a result of reforms that have attracted businesses and spurred economic growth among homegrown firms.

To modernize and streamline North Carolina's antiquated tax code, historic tax reform was signed into law, making our state affordable and economically competitive. Personal income-tax rates dropped from a maximum rate of 7.75 percent to a flat 5.8 percent in 2014 and is projected to be at 5.75 percent in 2015.

Corporate tax rates dropped from 6.9 percent to 6 percent in 2014 and are scheduled to drop to 3 percent by 2017 if revenue targets are met.

These tax reforms, along with closing loopholes, capping the gas tax and eliminating the death tax, have brought businesses like manufacturer Lee Controls to our state and helped existing companies expand.

Building on tax reform, we modernized North Carolina's unemployment system. Benefits were aligned with our neighboring states to help people enter back into the workforce and to reduce the massive debt owed to the federal government to pay for benefits.

These reforms sent a strong message to employers that North Carolina is serious about paying its bills, supporting businesses and getting people back to work. As a result, our unemployment debt has been reduced from $2.5 billion to less than $980 million. This debt is expected to be paid off three years ahead of schedule.

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Necessary reforms

As we have initiated reforms to support North Carolina's business climate, we have also pursued initiatives that provide employers the skilled workforce needed in this global economy. Workforce development reforms include investments in North Carolina's 58 community colleges, providing needed funding and flexibility to better meet the needs of local communities and businesses.

Efforts to connect more North Carolinians with more jobs have been streamlined under the NCWorks program. Vocational training has been stressed in high schools to ensure students are career-ready, college-ready or both upon graduation.

Veterans have also been an important focus of workforce development. North Carolina has the third-largest military presence in the country and expects an influx of 60,000 newly separated veterans over the next five years. As military members return home or complete their service, North Carolina has urged them to stay by providing in-state tuition for veterans at all 58 community colleges and 17 universities in the University of North Carolina system.

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Veterans bring discipline, leadership, experience and a focus on getting the job done.

"These reforms sent a strong message to employers that North Carolina is serious. ... Our unemployment debt has been reduced from $2.5 billion to less than $980 million. This debt is expected to be paid off three years ahead of schedule."

North Carolina enacted transportation reform to connect more of that skilled workforce with more jobs and opportunity. This has made transportation funding more efficient, while providing businesses easier access to more markets through diverse modes of transportation.

Our business-oriented reforms are yielding positive results and building on North Carolina's history of innovation and higher education. Businesses like Lenovo, MetLife, Ruger and AIG are among the diverse companies that have recognized the many benefits of doing business in North Carolina.

Numerous business publications and organizations have cited North Carolina as one of the best places in the nation to work, operate a business and raise a family. We invite you to come to the Tar Heel State to learn why.

By North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory