In a Tuesday visit to Charlotte, North Carolina - a city still stinging from not making the finalist list for Amazon’s second headquarters - Gov. Roy Cooper said having a well-trained and high-tech workforce is his administration’s number one priority. Cooper made the statement during a tour of Siemens Energy, where he met Central Piedmont Community College students working as apprentices.
During his tour of the Siemens plant, Cooper said the biggest challenge he faces when courting new businesses to North Carolina is convincing them that the state has the high-tech workforce they need.
“I go out and try to sell North Carolina all over the world,” Cooper said. “We’re a great state to come to, but they’re not going to come unless we have a well-prepared work force.”
Cooper called for businesses and educators to work closer together so students will have a curriculum that's in line with job needs of the future.
He also said he thinks the Republican National Convention would give Charlotte - and the state - a strong economic boost. City officials are looking into putting in a bid to host the 2020 RNC convention, and Cooper said he supports the idea.
When asked if he thinks the giant Confederate flags that members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are putting up on private property could hurt a bid for the convention, or deter companies from coming to North Carolina - like House Bill 2 did - Cooper said the state needs to project a message of welcome and tolerance.
"Diversity is our strength," he said. "We need to do things that don’t project intolerance and continue to work together to make sure that we send the message that we’re welcoming. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it's good for our economy.”
The governor also talked about school safety. He said he thinks the Trump Administration’s call for teachers to carry guns at school is a bad idea.
“There is potential for people to get hurt and for trouble, for people getting mad at each other and for carelessness. We should keep our schools free of guns,” the governor said.
Cooper said he wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He said he will soon announce proposals that will strengthen background checks for people who purchase guns.
The governor also talked about the controversial I-77 toll road project that has spawned lawsuits and split communities.
“It’s a complicated issue and a contract that never should have been entered into in the first place," Cooper said. "Clearly, if we don’t go through with the project, we will have to find some financing and funding to complete it or make sure it is paid for. All of those things will need to be worked out."
Cooper said various options for the toll road are being reviewed by a committee that will help transportation officials pick the best option.