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Company gets economic development dollars, as it moves jobs from one NC city to another

Earlier this week, the McCrory administration announced what seemed to be a big win for the state – Corning Optical Communications is moving its headquarters to Charlotte, bringing 650 people to work in the area.

The fiber optic cable manufacturing company ‘s new headquarters will have space for 150 new workers, a designation that makes the company eligible for $2.35 million over the next 12 years from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program.

Gov. Pat McCrory and John Skvarla, McCrory’s commerce secretary, trumpeted the move in a press release sent out earlier this week.

“Today’s announcement builds on the solid foundation this innovative company has in our state, and I am proud we emerged as the top choice for this important headquarters and the new jobs that come with it,” McCrory said, in a written statement released by his office Tuesday.

But not mentioned in the press release from the McCrory administration is that 500 of the 650 jobs are coming to Charlotte from an hour away – in Hickory.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Rudy Wright, the Hickory mayor, about the loss of several hundred high-paying jobs from his community of 40,000 in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Wright said his city had tried to keep the jobs in Catawba County, putting together what he described as a “tremendous offer.” He heard the company was also considering moving to South Carolina, and found out this week the jobs would soon be leaving Hickory.

Wright declined to specify what Hickory’s offer was, saying that publicizing that information would put the city at a disadvantage when negotiating future economic development deals. Corning will still maintain a manufacturing plant in Hickory, where more than 1,000 people are employed.

But the move of so many to a new headquarters will be tough for Hickory.

“Those highly paid people are consumers of goods and services, they’re residents, they use our schools, they bring brain power to our city,” Wright said. “This is a very important group to us.”

The move by Corning to Charlotte to Hickory highlights one of the bigger issues the state faces in its economic recovery. The state’s bustling urban centers, based in Charlotte and Raleigh, have steadily rebounded from the Recession while those in other metro or rural areas of the state have struggled to attract new employers.

Wright said he hopes to see those jobs replaced soon, and is focused on looking forward instead of getting upset about the company’s selection of Charlotte over Hickory.

“We accept the hand that is dealt,” he said.

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