Opinion, not fact

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 12, 2004

I guess I could have made more money by attending some fancy-dancy journalism school, but when it boils right down to the integrity of a news story, I’d rather be poor than to bend the facts.

A few weeks ago, the Raleigh News & Observer released a piece entitled – &uot;Nucor’s impact limited.&uot; For starters, that headline implies opinion rather than fact.

To make a long story short, the N&O article concentrated on the reasons why the $480 million dollar plant hasn’t been the &uot;God send&uot; local residents were seeking to dig them out from under decades of poverty.

Since the article appeared, I’ve heard from a number of people who said they were interviewed by the story’s author, Chris Serres, and that none of their &uot;positive comments&uot; concerning Nucor’s plant in Hertford County were published. Serres did print Ray Felton’s thoughts – he of Metal Tech over in Murfreesboro whose business has been directly impacted, in a positive sense, since Nucor cast its first slab of carbon steel plate in October of 2000.

However, the rest of the story is lacking – in more ways than one.

To get at the real meat of the matter, the N&O has been recently focusing on incentive packages offered by the state for industry to locate their plants in the Tar Heel State. The article made reference to state officials currently using Nucor’s track record of success in Hertford County to entice the General Assembly to offer $240 million in tax breaks to three companies that are shopping around for locations.

I don’t know about you, but it’s apparent to me that all is good with the world unless those companies choose not to locate in and around &uot;Raleighwood.&uot; In other words, Hertford County, and Nucor for that matter, was part of a good, old-fashioned witch hunt. The article – which even caught Nucor-Hertford County General Manager Giff Daughtridge off-guard after he was promised it was a positive piece – basically said – don’t invest in northeastern North Carolina.

I guess we don’t know what to say when a plant employs nearly 400 workers – by golly, all at one time. As Gomer would say – &uot;Sheeeezam!&uot;

We apparently don’t know how to cater to Nucor’s employees who average $60,000 in annual earnings. We’re at a loss in explaining how 25 other companies, ones that employ a total of nearly 200 workers, miraculously popped-up as service industries to Nucor. As a sidebar, the story mentioned the tax breaks Nucor continues to receive as a recycler. However, it stopped short of listing the taxes paid in to the county by the satellite firms.

For those that don’t believe Nucor has done a dang thing to raise the standard of living here in the Roanoke-Chowan area, look no further than the $100,000 fully-equipped, ready-to-save-lives ambulance the company purchased and donated last year to Hertford County EMS. What about their commitment to local youngsters as Nucor is a proud sponsor of summertime athletics. What about a railroad company that was about to go broke before Nucor arrived. If you get caught by the freight trains now rolling through our area, it would be a good time to read War and Peace or perhaps build Rome.

But yet the article made it appear that even with Nucor in our neck of the woods, we’re still just a poor bunch of undereducated country bumpkins.

One local manufactured housing sales location said they haven’t seen one drop of business from Nucor employees. Let’s see, I’m making $60-$70,000 per year and I have my choice between a singlewide and a conventional stick built home. Gee, I wonder which one I would choose.

Another man said he was still looking for hotels and restaurants to pop up in Ahoskie. He also is on the lookout for major road improvements in our area. To answer his first thought – Nucor has nothing to do with Ahoskie’s wastewater problems. The town can’t grow without added wastewater capacity – a problem they are currently addressing, although it’s too late to ride on Nucor’s coat tails.

As for his second thought, as long as Marc Basnight and his cronies remain in power in the NC Senate, don’t hold your breath waiting for the paving machines to widen US 158, US 13 or NC 11. All the money that’s going to be spent for major road improvements in eastern ‘Carolina is currently being funneled to the US 64 project between Raleigh (where Basnight works) and the Outer Banks (where he lives).

A local restaurant owner is apparently still waiting on Nucor workers to end their long and hard 12-hour shifts and make their way to his business. I know where I want to go after a 12-hour shift – home!

No, Nucor isn’t the answer to all of our problems. We are in dire need of more industry. Nucor is a start, as are the Lowes Regional Distribution Warehouse near Gaston (roughly 600 workers) and the planned new state prison earmarked for Bertie County (300-plus jobs).

We will eventually get there, with or without the lure of tax incentives that the N&O apparently dislikes unless those companies sink their roots in the Triangle area.