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Our view: It's better to work together

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Not long ago, economic development in the Triad not only wasn’t a team sport; it was a pro rasslin’ death match inside a chain-link fence.

Survival of the fittest.

Backbiting allowed.

I got mine. Who cares if you get yours?

OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but back in the day, regional cooperation around here was for sissies.

Backyard scrums were not uncommon.

And all too often, nobody won.

That’s why it’s encouraging, once in a while, to reflect on how far we’ve come. So, consider this news from last week:

A unnamed company already located in Greensboro is being wooed not only to move to Winston-Salem, but to build a bigger, better plant here with more jobs — jobs that pay well, an average annual salary of $60,000.

As the Winston-Salem Journal’s Wesley Young and the News & Record’s Kenwyn Caranna reported last week, the German company (possibly Ziehl-Abegg), which makes motors for ventilation systems, is considering Winston-Salem, among other cities, as the potential home for its new North American headquarters and main distribution plant.

In sheer numbers, we’re talking 200 jobs moving from there to here and possibly 300 more jobs being added.

What’s more, the Twin City is sweetening the pot with nearly $633,000 in financial incentives as a lure.

Time was when that would have been grounds for a nasty turf war. But not today.

From the very start, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines alerted his counterpart in Greensboro, Nancy Vaughan, of his city’s intentions so there would be no misunderstanding.

Foremost, Joines explained that this was no attempt by Winston-Salem to poach the company from Greensboro.

“The company approached us,” Joines said during a meeting of the Winston-Salem City Council’s Finance Committee on Oct. 11.

The manufacturer is looking for a site that Greensboro simply is not able to provide.

The cities have an agreement to alert one another when something like this happens, as it will from time to time. And they honored that agreement.

Make no mistake, Greensboro does not relish losing any jobs or industry. But in this, the circumstances dictate a move.

Better for the jobs to remain in the Triad — even if that means in Forsyth County as opposed to Guilford, Vaughan told Joines.

For that matter, our neighbors’ commercial gains often mean jobs for our residents as well; commutes between our cities are not particularly arduous.

As for how things used to be? Don’t ask.

More often than not it was every city for itself.

There was especially bitter blood between intra-county rivals High Point and Greensboro, but all three Triad cities have had their moments.

In 2004, for instance, Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem bid against one another for the Dell desktop computer manufacturing plant that Winston-Salem won.

Three years later, Greensboro’s Cone Health and High Point Regional Hospital sparred over Cone’s plans to build an emergency room and ambulatory care facility in north High Point.

But the low point may have come in 2006, when High Point used incentives to lure a La-Z-Boy regional headquarters from Greensboro — a move that covered a grand total of five miles.

This is why the Winston-Salem bid for a Greensboro company, with incentives, not being a big deal is a such a big deal.

Triad cities have agreed to work together where they could and should when vying for major employers whose presence would benefit the entire region.

And where warranted, they have agreed to pool resources to attract new industry.

That’s a far cry from the clawing and scratching of the not-so-distant past.

Are regional relations perfect? Of course not. But they’re light years from where they were, and still improving, as last week’s news attests.

The road to more reasonable relations wasn’t paved overnight. But we’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that one Triad city’s victory shouldn’t have to mean another Triad city’s loss.

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