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How much love was North Carolina ready to show Toyota? Take a look

Craig Jarvis, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Business News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina would have invested heavily in job training, rail, roads and tax breaks to land the Toyota-Mazda joint manufacturing operation near Greensboro, according to newly released emails detailing officials' intense but losing battle.

Last month the state was runner-up to Alabama despite extraordinary efforts by North Carolina officials, who promised $1.6 billion in financial incentives.

The records were released by the state Department of Commerce on Monday evening in response to public record requests. The records show North Carolina worked hard to anticipate what the Japanese automakers might want, and to meet their extensive requirements for what was dubbed Project New World.

Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., in several emails prepped Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials on how to woo high-ranking Toyota officials during their two visits to North Carolina last fall.

Chung relayed that the Chicago-based commercial real estate company representing Toyota "emphasized how important it was for the Toyota folks to 'feel the love' about how important this project is to North Carolina. This needs to come across loud and clear in language, tone, verbal and non-verbal communications."

Chung said the company had been less than impressed by the response from other governors its officials had met.

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Cooper and Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland should mention discussions are ongoing with the legislature to come up with additional financial incentives if needed, Chung wrote in September.

Other messages indicated the governor might need to weigh in with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to convince the company of the need to move a utility power line on the state "megasite" property in Randolph County near Greensboro. Duke ended up agreeing to move the line.

Toyota officials visited the Randolph County location as well as two megasites in Chatham County.

Chung also suggested that Cooper meet the Toyota officials at the airport and ride with them in a Toyota for their meeting in the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, although the emails don't indicate if his advice was followed. Chung also suggested consideration be given to promising that Toyota vehicles would receive preference if bought for the state's motor fleet; that was not included in the state's promises.

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