Had Toyota-Mazda chosen to drop its next large-scale plant in Liberty, North Carolina, the spoils would have been far-reaching. (It didn’t … instead choosing Alabama because of that state’s insane incentives package).

Sanford, a quick-shot 37-mile drive on U.S. 421 to the proposed mega-site, would have benefited greatly from a Toyota-North Carolina marriage, says Bob Joyce, the economic development executive director of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.

In short, Sanford would have been an attractive home to several “Tier 1 or Tier 2 suppliers,” businesses that exist solely because of their symbiotic relationship with a large-scale business like Toyota — which would have brought in approximately 4,000 immediate jobs and thousands of “supplier” jobs in outlying cities.

“What we miss out on is the opportunity to have these suppliers and the jobs — the payroll — and the tax base that all of those businesses bring,” Joyce said.

Joyce points to a 2014 economic study from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business to show what the impact of Toyota-Mazda would have had on Sanford. USC’s study looked at the 20-year economic impact of the BMW plant in Spartanburg County. The direct impact of that plant was roughly 7,600 jobs and $677 million in labor income, but the overall impact was more than 30,000 jobs and nearly $1.8 billion in labor income.

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“As a high-volume producer, BMW not only employs a large workforce, but also supports an extensive supplier network throughout South Carolina,” Joyce said. “This supply chain generates vast economic ripple effects across many industries. These spillover effects support indirect job creation and higher incomes for South Carolinians.”

Joyce added that the South Carolina BMW plant’s 20-year effect on the quality of life in that area has also been a “major benefit” to the state’s Upland. North Carolina lost out, he said, because state leaders and economic officials weren’t on the same page during the courting process.

“Policy makers in North Carolina ought to get together to assess the process on this one,” Joyce said. “We’ve been the bridesmaid on too many of these transformative projects.”

So, yes, Sanford … mourn the Alabama announcement. It’s not enough that the damn state doesn’t get a college football national title every three years — now it gets a bunch of jobs and a ton of tax money that might be enough to keep Nick Saban employed for the next 30 years.

But don’t lose all hope.

The Triangle Business Journal’s article this week on the Toyota decision points out that of North Carolina’s four available mega-sites, three of them are within a football toss of Sanford and Lee County.

In addition to the Liberty site, the Moncure Mega-site(13 miles from Sanford) offers 2,500 acres and the Chatham-Siler City Mega-site (30 miles) would both have huge ripple effects in Lee County should either attract a major player. The fourth site is in Kingsboro, near Rocky Mount. And nobody wants that one, we think.

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