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North Carolina offered $1.5 billion, but still couldn’t land Toyota-Mazda. It’s not the first time Alabama beat us on a car deal.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1993, Governor Hunt was just beginning his third term. Mercedes-Benz was looking to build a new manufacturing plant in the Southeast. And Hunt was in hot pursuit.

The Governor had earned a reputation as a master industry-hunter in his first two terms, from 1977 to 1985. Now he wanted Mercedes something fierce, and he went after it full-tilt. It was all-hands-on-deck, full-court press, 24-7.

At the time, North Carolina didn’t offer incentives for new industry. Didn’t need to, you know. We were used to winning without resorting to incentives. We were nervous about Mercedes, because Alabama and other Southern states were offering big incentive packages. But the Mercedes site team said incentives wouldn’t drive their decision.

Wrong. Alabama got the plant. Governor Hunt said later, “Mercedes kept telling us it wasn’t about the incentives. But, in the end, it was about the incentives.”

After that, he had no qualms about incentives. More and more over the years, North Carolina got into the incentives game. This time, we got into it to the tune of $1.5 billion. The offer even had bipartisan support. But we still lost.

Maybe next time.


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