CLAYTON — Wearing a Carhartt jacket and hiking shoes, Governor Pat McCrory ate lunch at Jones’ on Tuesday afternoon, on his first stop outside the capital city since his State of the State address Monday night.
“I need a hot dog, a red hot dog,” McCrory shouted as he walked into the 54-year-old restaurant.
The governor invited questions from a crowd of about 75 people, including town and county representatives, and business owners. He discussed decreasing income taxes, focusing on agricultural exports, and maintaining well-kept main streets before walking around Clayton’s Main Street and visiting local businesses.
McCrory said he told his scheduler on Monday that he wanted to visit a Main Street on the day after his speech. The scheduler chose her hometown for the visit.
“You’ve got to hear from people outside the bubble,” said McCrory. “You kind of lose sense of reality in the bubble,” referring to the political zone in Raleigh.
“I’m living in a big house now,” said McCrory. “There’s no reality in that house.”
Talking about the issues
While eating crinkled fries, McCrory stood at a table in Jones’ and took questions from the people in attendance.
Councilman Art Holder asked the governor how he planned to get programs started for people to get back to work.
McCrory said one of his plans is to “export more of the products from this area overseas including to Asia, India, and South America.”
The governor said “we’re working on an agreement to get refrigeration at the Wilmington port for pork and chicken products that we can export.” He said that he plans to work a lot with the agricultural community.
“Our agricultural products could help lead us out of the recession,” said McCrory.
McCrory said he has spent much of his five weeks in office so far meeting with companies, and has found that many employers are hiring. He did not name any of the companies that were hiring.
“Even in this area, sometimes employers tell me they can’t find employees,” said McCrory.
Representative Leo Daughtry encouraged McCrory to implement his tax reforms.
“One of the things you’ve been talking about for a while is tax reform,” said Daughtry. “That’s gonna be hard for you to get done because you’re going to step on a lot of people’s feet.”
“We’re gonna step on the toes of a lot of special interest groups, and in the long run it’s going to make North Carolina’s economy stronger,” he said.. McCrory pointed out that North Carolina is not competitive with South Carolina, Virginia, or Tennessee, which have lower income tax rates than North Carolina. He said people are moving from North Carolina to those states to find lower income tax rates. “Think of the revenue we’re losing.”
Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod asked McCrory to talk more about his plan for Main Streets across the state.
“Mayor to mayor, the health of Main Street shows the health of your whole community,” said McCrory. He said when a Main Street has boarded up businesses, it shows the economic decline in that area. The governor did not detail his plan for how to fix up struggling Main Streets.
McCrory also touted his mayoral experience as he talked as he said his policies on infrastructure, taxation, and streamlining the government would help the community in Clayton.
“Those impact Clayton and many other areas like it across North Carolina,” said McCrory. “I come from local government.”
McCrory, who infamously pilloried the value of some liberal arts educations, also touted his plans for the community college system to become a bigger player in preparing young people for work in a new economy.
McCrory said he wants to form more partnerships with businesses, high schools, and universities so they all share resources. Many times during McCrory’s campaign, he has said that he wants to place greater emphasis on vocational training in order for people to be able to get technical jobs. But he said on Tuesday he does not plan to give more money to the community colleges who offer vocational training.
“We don’t have any new money,” said McCrory.Burr Jones and his father Curtis Jones said they were both delighted to serve the governor in their restaurant, and they are both supporters of him. Though the restaurant normally closes at 2 p.m., it stayed open until 5 p.m. for the governor’s visit.
After his visit at Jones’, McCrory took a walk along Main Street and stopped in at local businesses, posing for many pictures. He visited Kirby’s Precision Cuts, Blackley’s Printing, the Chamber of Commerce, Beddingfield’s Drugs and Medlin’s Office Supply.